Ecosytem Services: A Rapid Assessment Method Tested at 35 Sites of the LTER-Europe Network

Open access


The identification of parameters to monitor the ecosystem services delivered at a site is fundamental to the concept’s adoption as a useful policy instrument at local, national and international scales. In this paper we (i) describe the process of developing a rapid comprehensive ecosystem service assessment methodology and (ii) test the applicability of the protocol at 35 long-term research (LTER) sites across 14 countries in the LTER-Europe network ( including marine, urban, agricultural, forest, desert and conservation sites. An assessment of probability of occurrence with estimated confidence score using 83 ecosystem service parameters was tested. The parameters were either specific services like food production or proxies such as human activities which were considered surrogates for cultural diversity and economic activity. This initial test of the ecosystem service parameter list revealed that the parameters tested were relatively easy to score by site managers with a high level of certainty (92% scored as either occurring or not occurring at the site with certainty of over 90%). Based on this assessment, we concluded that (i) this approach to operationalise the concept of ecosystem services is practical and applicable by many sectors of civil society as a first screen of the ecosystem services present at a site, (ii) this study has direct relevance to land management and policy decision makers as a transparent vehicle to focus testing scenarios and target data gathering, but (iii) further work beyond the scale investigated here is required to ensure global applicability.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Anderson B.J. Armsworth P.R. Eigenbrod F. Thomas C.D. Gillings S. Heinemeyer A. Roy D.B. & Gaston K.J. (2009). Spatial covariance between biodiversity and other ecosystem service priorities. J. Appl. Ecol. 46 888-896. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01666.x.

  • Anton C. Young J. Harrison P.A. Musche M. Bela G. Feld C.K. Harrington R. Haslett J.R. Pataki G. Roun-sevell M.D.A. Skourtos M. Sousa J.P. Sykes M.T. Tinch R. Vandewalle M. Watt A. & Settele J. (2010).

  • Research needs for incorporating the ecosystem service approach into EU biodiversity conservation policy. Biodivers. Conserv. 19 2979-2994. DOI: 10.1007/s10531-010-9853-6.

  • Benayas J.M.R. Newton A.C. Diaz A. & Bullock J.M. (2009). Enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services by ecological restoration: a meta-analysis. Science 325 1121-1124. DOI: 10.1126/science.1172460.

  • Boyd J. & Banzhaf S. (2007). What are ecosystem services? The need for standardized environmental accounting

  • units. Ecological Economics 63 616-626. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2007.01.002.

  • Brooke A. & Knuthk B. (2002). Knowledge partnerships: rapid rural appraisal’s role in catalyzing community-based management in Venezuela. Society and Natural Resources 15 805-825. DOI: 10.1080/08941920290107576.

  • Burkhard B. Kroll F. Müller F. & Windhorst W. (2009). Landscapes’ capacities to provide ecosystem services - a concept for land cover based assessments. Landscape Online 15 1-22. DOI: 10.3097/LO.200915.

  • Collins S.L. Carpenter S.R. Swinton S.M. Orenstein D.E. Childers D.L. Gragson T.L. Grimm N.B. Grove J.M. Harlan S.L. Kaye J.P. Knapp A.K. Kofinas G.P. Magnuson J.J. McDowell W.H. Melack J.M. Ogden L.A. Robertson G.P. Smith M.D. & Whitmer A.C. (2010). An integrated conceptual framework for long-term social and ecological research. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9 351-357. DOI: 10.1890/100068.

  • Cornell S. (2010). Valuing ecosystem benefits in a dynamic world. Clim. Res. 45 261-272. DOI: 10.3354/cr00843.

  • Costanza R. d’Arge R. de Groot R. Farber S. Grasso M. Hannon B. Limburg K. Naeem S. O’Neill R.V. Paruelo J. Raskin R.G. Sutton P. & van den Belt M. (1997). The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387 253-260.

  • Daily G.C. Polasky S. Goldstein J. Kareiva P.M. Mooney H.A. Pejchar L. Ricketts T.H. Salzman J. & Shallen-berger R. (2009). Ecosystem services in decision making: time to deliver. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7 21-28. DOI: 10.1890/080025.

  • DEFRA (2007). An introductory guide to valuing ecosystem services. London: Defra Publications. de Groot R. (2010). Integrating the ecological and economic dimensions in biodiversity and ecosystem service valuation. In P. Kumar (Ed.) The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: ecological and economic foundations. London: Earthscan.

  • Dick J.M. Smith R.I. & Scott E.M. (2011a). Ecosystem services and associated concepts. Environmetrics 22 598-607. DOI: 10.1002/env.1085.

  • Dick J. Andrews C. Beaumont D.A. Benham S. Brooks D.R. Corbett S. Lloyd D. McMillan S. Monteith D.T. Pilgrim E.S. Rose R. Scott A. Scott T. Smith R.I. Taylor C. Taylor M. Turner A. & Watson H. (2011b). A comparison of ecosystem services delivered by 11 long-term monitoring sites in the UK environmental change network. Environmetrics 22 639-648. DOI: 10.1002/env.1069.

  • Dick J. Andrews C. Beaumont D.A. Benham S. Brooks D.R. Corbett S. Lloyd D. McMillan S. Monteith D.T. Pilgrim E.S. Rose R. Scott A. Scott T. Smith R.I. Taylor C. Taylor M. Turner A. & Watson H. (2011c). Ecosystem services variables from the UK Environmental Change Network (ECN). Environmental Information Data Centre. DOI: 10.5285/2c5f823d-0dca-4e66-b021-de3e81131979.

  • Dunn R.R. (2010). Global mapping of ecosystem disservices: the unspoken reality that Nature Sometimes Kills us. Biotropica 42 555-557. DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2010.00698.x.

  • Elith J. Graham C. H. Anderson R. P. Dudík M. Ferrier S. Guisan A. Hijmans R. J. Huettmann F. Leathwick J. R. Lehmann A. Li J. Lohmann L. G. Loiselle B. A. Manion G. Moritz C. Nakamura M. Nakazawa Y. Overton J. McC. Peterson A. T. Phillips S. J. Richardson K. S. Scachetti-Pereira R. Schapire R. E. Soberón J. Williams S. Wisz M. S. & Zimmermann N.E. (2006). Novel methods improve prediction of species’ distributions from occurrence data. Ecography 29 129-151. DOI: 10.1111/j.2006.0906-7590.04596.x.

  • Feld C.K. da Silva P.M. Sousa J.P. de Bello F. Bugter R. Grandin U. Hering D. Lavorel S. Mountford O. Pardo I. Partel M. Rombke J. Sandin L. Jones K.B. & Harrison P. (2009). Indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem services: a synthesis across ecosystems and spatial scales. Oikos 118 1862-1871. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2009.17860.x.

  • Fennessy M.S. Jacobs A.D. & Kentula M.E. (2004). Review of rapid methods for assessing wetland condition. EPA/620/R-04/009. Washington: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Haines-Young R.H. & Potschin M. (2010). Proposal for a common international classification of ecosystem goods and services (CICES) for integrated environmental and economic accounting. European Environment Agency. Available at:

  • Hanson C. Ranganathan J. Iceland C. & Finisdore J. (2008). The corporate ecosystem services review:guidelines for identifying business risks and opportunities arising from ecosystem change. World Resources Institute.

  • Keene M. & Pullin A.S. (2011). Realizing an effectiveness revolution in environmental management. J. Environ. Manag. 92 2130-2135. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.03.035.

  • Luck G.W. Harrington R. Harrison P.A. Kremen C. Berry P.M. Bugter R. Dawson T.P. de Bello F. Diaz S. Feld C.K. Haslett J.R. Hering D. Kontogianni A. Lavorel S. Rounsevell M. Samways M.J. Sandin L. Settele J. Sykes M.T. van den Hove S. Vandewalle M. & Zobel M. (2009). Quantifying the contribution of organisms to the provision of ecosystem services. Bioscience 59 223-235. DOI: 10.1525/bio.2009.59.3.7.

  • MA (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: General Synthesis. Washington: Island Press.

  • Maes J. Hauck J. Paracchini M.L. Ratamäki O. Termansen M. Perez-Soba M. Kopperoinen L. Rankinen K. Schägner J.P. Henrys P. Cisowska I. Zandersen M. Jax K. La Notte A. Leikola N. Pouta E. Smart S. Hasler B. Lankia T. Andersen H.E. Lavalle C. Vermaas T. Alemu M.H. Scholefield P. Batista F. Pywell R. Hutchins M. Blemmer M. Fonnesbech-Wulff A. Vanbergen A.J. Münier B. Baranzelli C. Roy D. Thieu V. Zulian G. Kuussaari X. Thodsen H. Alanen E. Egoh B. S⊘rensen P.B. Braat L. & Bidoglio G. (2012). A spatial assessment of ecosystem services in Europe: methods case studies and policy analysis - phase 2. Synthesis report. PEER Report No 4. Ispra: Partnership for European Environmental Research. DOI: 10.2788/41943 (print) 10.2788/41831 (online).

  • Maes J. Teller A. Erhard M. Liquete C. Bratt L. Egoh B. Puydarrieux P. Fiorina C. Santos F. Paracchini M. L. Keune H. Wittmer H. Hauck J. Fiala I. Verbirg P.H. Conde S. Schagner J.P. San Miguel J. Estreguil C. Ostermann O. Barredo J.I. Pereira H.M. Stott A. Laporte V. Meiner A. Olah B. Royo G.E. Spyropou-lou R. Petersen J.E. Maguire C. Zal N. Achilleos E. Rubin A. Ledoux L. Brown C. Raes C. Jacobs S. Vanderwalle M. Connor D. & Bidoglio G. (2013). Mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services. An analytical framework for ecosystem assessments under action 5 of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. Luxembourg: Publications office of the European Union. DOI: 10.2779/12398.

  • Metzger M.J. Rounsevell M.D.A. Acosta-Michlik L. Leemans R. & Schroter D. (2006). The vulnerability of ecosystem services to land use change. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 114 69-85. DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2005.11.025.

  • Mirtl M. (2010). Introducing the next generation of ecosystem research in Europe: LTER-Europe’s multi-functional and multi-scale approach. In F. Müller C. Baessler H. Schubert & S. Klotz (Eds.) Long-term ecological research: Between theory and application (pp. 75-94). Dordrecht: Springer.

  • Moldan B. Janouskova S. & Hak T. (2012). How to understand and measure environmental sustainability: Indicators and targets. Ecological Indicators 17 4-13. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.04.033. Orenstein D.E. Groner E. Argaman E. Boeken B. Preisler Y. Shachak M. Ungar E.D. & Zaady E. (2012). An ecosystem services inventory: lessons from the Northern Negev Long-Term Social Ecological Research (LTSER) platform. Geography Research Forum 32 96-118.

  • Payne R.W. Lane P.W. Ainsley A.E. Bicknell K.E. Digby P.G.N. Harding S.A. Leech H. Simpson N. Todd D. Verrier P.J. & White R.P. (1987). Genstat 5 reference manual. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  • Perrings C. Naeem S. Ahrestani F. Bunker D.E. Burkill P. Canziani G. Elmqvist T. Ferrati R. Fuhrman J.A. Jaksic F. Kawabata Z. Kinzig A. Mace G.M. Milano F. Mooney H. Prieur-Richard A.H. Tschirhart J. & Weisser W. (2010). Ecosystem services for 2020. Science 330 323-324. DOI: 10.1126/science.1196431.

  • Reyers B. O’Farrell P.J. Cowling R.M. Egoh B.N. Le Maitre D.C. & Vlok J.H.J. (2009). Ecosystem services land-cover change and stakeholders: finding a sustainable foothold for a semiarid biodiversity hotspot. Ecology and Society 14(1) 38. [online] URL:

  • Rifkin S. (1996). Rapid rural appraisal: its use and value for health planners and managers. Public Administration 74(3) 509-526. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9299.1996.tb00882.x.

  • Ring I. Hansjurgens B. Elmqvist T. Wittmer H. & Sukhdev P. (2010). Challenges in framing the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: the TEEB initiative. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2 15-26. DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2010.03.005.

  • Sagoff M. (2011). The quantification and valuation of ecosystem services. Ecological Economics 70 497-502. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.10.006.

  • Seppelt R. Dormann C.F. Eppink F.V. Lautenbach S. & Schmidt S. (2011). A quantitative review of ecosystem service studies: approaches shortcomings and the road ahead. J. Appl. Ecol. 48 630-636. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01952.x.

  • TEEB (2010). The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: mainstreaming the economics of nature: a synthesis of the approach conclusions and recommendations of TEEB. Malta: Progress Press.

  • Torrico J.C. & Janssens M.J.J. (2010). Rapid assessment methods of resilience for natural and agricultural systems. An. Acad. Bras. Ciênc. 82 1095-1105. DOI: 10.1590/S0001-37652010000400027.

  • Troy A. & Wilson M.A. (2006). Mapping ecosystem services: Practical challenges and opportunities in linking GIS and value transfer. Ecological Economics 60 435-449. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2006.04.007.

  • Van Dam R.A. Camilleri C. & Finlayson C.M. (1998). The potential of rapid assessment techniques as early warning indicators of wetland degradation: a review. Environmental Toxicology and Water Quality 13 297-312. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2256(1998)13:4⋋297::AID-TOX3>3.0.CO.

  • Vihervaara P. Ronka M. & Walls M. (2010). Trends in ecosystem service research: early steps and current drivers. Ambio 39 314-324. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-010-0048-x.

  • Zhang B.A. Li W.H. & Xie G.D. (2010). Ecosystem services research in China: Progress and perspective. Ecological Economics 69 1389-1395. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.03.009.

  • Zhang W. Ricketts T.H. Kremen C. Carney K. & Swinton S.M. (2007). Ecosystem services and dis-services to agriculture. Ecological Economics 64 253-260. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2007.02.024.

Journal information
Impact Factor

CiteScore 2018: 0.77

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.283
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.534

Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 443 116 3
PDF Downloads 210 83 5