Key criteria for developing ecosystem service indicators to inform decision making

Research output: Journal contributionsComments / Debate / ReportsResearch


  • Alexander P.E. van Oudenhoven
  • Matthias Schröter
  • Evangelia G. Drakou
  • Ilse R. Geijzendorffer
  • Sander Jacobs
  • Peter M. van Bodegom
  • Laurent Chazee
  • Bálint Czúcz
  • Karsten Grunewald
  • Ana I. Lillebø
  • Laura Mononen
  • António J.A. Nogueira
  • Manuel Pacheco-Romero
  • Christian Perennou
  • Roy P. Remme
  • Silvia Rova
  • Ralf Uwe Syrbe
  • Jamie A. Tratalos
  • María Vallejos
  • Christian Albert

Decision makers are increasingly interested in information from ecosystem services (ES) assessments. Scientists have for long recognised the importance of selecting appropriate indicators. Yet, while the amount and variety of indicators developed by scientists seems to increase continuously, the extent to which the indicators truly inform decision makers is often unknown and questioned. In this viewpoint paper, we reflect and provide guidance on how to develop appropriate ES indicators for informing decision making, building on scientific literature and practical experience collected from researchers involved in seven case studies. We synthesized 16 criteria for ES indicator selection and organized them according to the widely used categories of credibility, salience, legitimacy (CSL). We propose to consider additional criteria related to feasibility (F), as CSL criteria alone often seem to produce indicators which are unachievable in practice. Considering CSLF together requires a combination of scientific knowledge, communication skills, policy and governance insights and on-field experience. In conclusion, we present a checklist to evaluate CSLF of your ES indicators. This checklist helps to detect and mitigate critical shortcomings in an early phase of the development process, and aids the development of effective indicators to inform actual policy decisions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcological Indicators
Pages (from-to)417-426
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 12.2018
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Credibility, CSL, Feasibility, Legitimacy, Salience, Science-policy interface
  • Ecosystems Research