Introduction to Ecosystem Services
There are three interlinked concepts related to the provision of ecosystem services, i.e. ecosystem process, ecosystem function, and ecosystem service. Ecosystem process is “any change or reaction which occurs within ecosystems, physical, chemical or biological. Ecosystem processes include decomposition, production, nutrient cycling, and fluxes of nutrients and energy (MA 2005).
The second concept is ecosystem function that is a “subset of the interactions between biophysical structures, biodiversity and ecosystem processes that underpin the capacity of an ecosystem to provide ecosystem services (TEEB 2010).
And finally, ecosystem services are “the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems -the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human wellbeing” (TEEB 2010). The concept “ecosystem goods and services” is synonymous with ecosystem services. The scope of this web-portal is specifically on forest ecosystem services (FES) – those ES provided by forest ecosystems.
Thus the flow of ES is seen as the link between socio-economic systems and ecosystems (MAES 2013), and this is the aspect usually accounted for assessment and valuation of ES. Processes and functions occur inside the ecosystem and are influenced by anthropic drivers that may have an impact (positive and negative) in the provision of services. Biodiversity – the variety of all life on earth – plays a key role in the structural set-up of ecosystems, which is essential to maintaining basic ecosystem processes and supporting ecosystem functions.
Conceptual framework for EU wide ecosystem assessments (MAES, 2013)
People benefit from ecosystem (goods and) services. These benefits are, among others, nutrition, access to clean air and water, health, safety, and enjoyment and they affect (increase) human wellbeing, which is the key target of managing the socio-economic systems. The focus on benefits implies that ecosystem services are open to economic valuation. However, not all benefits to people from ecosystems can be measured in monetary terms. Therefore, it is important to include other values as well, such as health value, social value or conservation value. The governance of the coupled socio-economic-ecological system is an integral part of the framework: Institutions, stakeholders and users of ecosystem services affect ecosystems through direct or indirect drivers of change. Policies concerning natural resource management aim to affect drivers of change to achieve a desired future state of ecosystems. Many other policies also affect these drivers and thus can be added to the framework as they have an impact on ecosystems even though they might not target them at all (e.g. through the construction of buildings or infrastructure, or industrial policy through pollution) (MAES 2013).
It can be stated, the MAES (2013) framework is successful in integrating the biophysical domain with the socio-economic drivers affecting ES and considers as well the role of biodiversity in ecosystem functions and services, therefore this is a good basis for consideration of European forests in terms of ecosystem service delivery and opportunity.
Classification of Ecosystem Services
Several classification approaches to classification of ecosystem services has been developed. MAES, according to Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES, 2013), classifies ES into three groups: Provisioning, Regulating/Maintenance and Cultural services. However, there are also other two international classifications of ES applied according to MA (2005) and TEEB initiatives (2010).
|Industrial wood||Raw materials||Materials / Biomass, fibre|
|Fuelwood||Energy / Biomass-based energy|
|Non-wood forest products||Food / Raw materials||Nutrition / Biomass|
|Materials / Biomass, fibre|
|Fresh water (water purification) (also Regulation service)||Water supply||Materials / Water|
|Nutrition / Water|
|Genetic resources||Genetic resources||Materials / Biomass, fibre (genetic resources)|
|REGULATION||REGULATING||REGULATION AND MAINTENANCE|
|Biological control||Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions / Pest and disease control|
|Water regulation||Regulation of water flows||Mediation of flows / Liquid flows|
|Disturbance prevention or moderation||Mediation of flows / Air flows (storms)|
|Water purification and waste treatment||Waste treatment (water purification)||Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions / Water conditions|
|Air quality regulation||Air purification||Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions / Atmospheric composition and climate regulation|
|Climate regulation (incl. C sequestration)||Climate regulation (incl. C sequestration)||Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions / Atmospheric composition and climate regulation|
|Soil protection (erosion regulation)||Erosion prevention||Mediation of flows / Mass flow|
|Soil formation (supporting service)||Maintaining soil fertility||Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions / Soil formation and composition|
|Pollination||Pollination||Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions / Lifecycle maintenance, habitat and gene pool protection|
|Biodiversity repository||Maintenance of genetic diversity (especially in gene pool protection)||Maintenance of physical, chemical, biological conditions / Lifecycle maintenance, habitat and gene pool protection|
|CULTURAL||CULTURAL & AMENITY||CULTURAL|
|Spiritual||Spiritual experience||Spiritual, symbolic and other interactions with ecosystems and landscapes / Spiritual and/or emblematic|
|Cultural||Inspiration for culture, art & design||Physical and intellectual interactions with ecosystems and landscapes / Intellectual and representative interactions|
|Ecotourism||Recreation & Tourism||Physical and intellectual interactions with ecosystems and landscapes / Physical and experiential interactions|
|Aesthetic values||Aesthetic information||Spiritual, symbolic and other interactions with ecosystems and landscapes / Other cultural outputs|
|Knowledge systems & Education||Information for cognitive development||Physical and intellectual interactions with ecosystems and landscapes / Intellectual and representative interactions|
|SUPPORTING (in MA services necessary for the production of all other ES)|
For more details about ESS and FES classification see the FOREST EUROPE Final Report on Valuation of Forest Ecosystem Services (2014).
From the original classification of ESS from MA, TEEB and CICES a comparison including only FES is shown in the Table . A first look to the comparison of the three classifications suggests that there are important commonalities between them. The main categories of provision, regulation (and maintenance) and cultural (and amenity) are comparable and in many cases the subcategories are also coincident. It is noticeable that CICES is an extendable classification and that a further level of disaggregation (class) is not shown in the Table for the sake of readability. It is worth mention that the last column of this table (FES in CICES) is in line with results of the MAES Forest Ecosystem Services Pilot MAES 2014 that provided an agreed classification of FES derived from CICES up to class level to be used at pan-European level.
MA (2003) Ecosystems and Human Well-being: A Framework for Assessment, Ch. 2. http://www.maweb.org/documents/document.300.aspx.pdf and MA (2005) Global & Multiscale Assessment Reports, Current State & Trends Assessment, Ch. 21 http://www.maweb.org/documents/document.290.aspx.pdf
TEEB (2010) Integrating the ecological and economic dimensions in biodiversity and ecosystem service valuation, Ch 1. http://www.teebweb.org/EcologicalandEconomicFoundation/tabid/1018/Default.aspx
CICES V4.3; http://cices.eu/
MAES (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.
MAES (2014): Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services – Indicators for ecosystem assessments under Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. Luxembourg: Publications office of the European Union.