Ecosystem-service indicators and related accounting units are crucial for the development of decision frameworks for sustainable land management systems. With a management concept using ecosystem services, land-use expectations can be linked to quantifiable soil features in a defendable and transparent way. A method to define a set of site-specific ecosystem services and indication system for quantification was set-up and run. First, we interviewed a wide group of land users profiting from ecosystem services of the soil at four arable farms in the polder Hoeksche Waard (S-SE of Rotterdam, the Netherlands). Subsequently, site-specific ecosystem services were defined and weighted according to land use expectations at different spatial and temporal scales. Second, a practical set of indicators was taken from 'Best Professional Judgment' and used to quantify the performance of the ecosystem services for these four farms. The indicators were derived from biotic and abiotic soil parameters. The performance of ecosystem services was related to a reference situation (MEP: maximum ecological potential) with the same land use and soil type combination (i.e., arable fields on silt loam) taken from the database of our national soil survey. In many cases, the performance of ecosystem services was relatively poor if compared to MEP. However, the performances of natural attenuation and/or climate-related services were better. In addition, the different management of these farms (i.e. conventional, intensive and organic farming) was reflected in the performance of the ecosystem services of their soils. Third, land management measures to improve the targeted ecosystem services were incorporated in the outlined method, but not worked out with illustrative field data in this study. Together with concordant data, we show opportunities for a quantification of ecosystem services to improve land-users' awareness and to assess management sustainability. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.