Selecting methods for ecosystem service assessment: A decision tree approach

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Paula A. Harrison
  • Rob Dunford
  • David N. Barton
  • Eszter Kelemen
  • Lisa Norton
  • Mette Termansen
  • Heli Saarikoski
  • Kees Hendriks
  • Erik Gómez-Baggethun
  • Bálint Czúcz
  • Marina García-Llorente
  • David Howard
  • Sander Jacobs
  • Martin Karlsen
  • Leena Kopperoinen
  • Andes Madsen
  • Graciela Rusch
  • Michiel van Eupen
  • Peter Verweij
  • Ron Smith
  • Diana Tuomasjukka
  • Grazia Zulian

A range of methods are available for assessing ecosystem services. Methods differ in their aims; from mapping and modelling the supply and demand of ecosystem services to appraising their economic and non-economic importance through valuation techniques. Comprehensive guidance for the selection of appropriate ecosystem service assessment methods that address the requirements of different decision-making contexts is lacking. This paper tackles this gap using the experience from 27 case studies which applied different biophysical, socio-cultural and monetary valuation methods to operationalise the ecosystem service concept towards sustainable land, water and urban management. A survey of the reasons why the case study teams selected particular methods revealed that stakeholder-oriented reasons, such as stakeholder participation, inclusion of local knowledge and ease of communication, and decision-oriented reasons, such as the purpose of the case study and the ecosystem services at stake, were key considerations in selecting a method. Pragmatic reasons such as available data, resources and expertise were also important factors. This information was used to develop a set of linked decision trees, which aim to provide guidance to researchers and practitioners in choosing ecosystem service assessment methods that are suitable for their context.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcosystem Services
Issue numberC
Pages (from-to)481-498
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 02.2018