Accounting for capacity and flow of ecosystem services: A conceptual model and a case study for Telemark, Norway

M. Schroter, D.N. Barton, R.P. Remme, L.G. Hein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

245 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the flow of ecosystem services and the capacity of ecosystems to generate these services is an essential element for understanding the sustainability of ecosystem use as well as developing ecosystem accounts. We conduct spatially explicit analyses of nine ecosystem services in Telemark County, Southern Norway. The ecosystem services included are moose hunting, sheep grazing, timber harvest, forest carbon sequestration and storage, snow slide prevention, recreational residential amenity, recreational hiking and existence of areas without technical interference. We conceptually distinguish capacity to provide ecosystem services from the actual flow of services, and empirically assess both. This is done by means of different spatial models, developed with various available datasets and methods, including (multiple layer) look-up tables, causal relations between datasets (including satellite images), environmental regression and indicators derived from direct measurements. Capacity and flow differ both in spatial extent and in quantities. We discuss five conditions for a meaningful spatial capacity–flow-balance. These are (1) a conceptual difference between capacity and flow, (2) spatial explicitness of capacity and flow, (3) the same spatial extent of both, (4) rivalry or congestion, and (5) measurement with aligned indicators. We exemplify spatially explicit balances between capacity and flow for two services, which meet these five conditions. Research in the emerging field of mapping ES should focus on the development of compatible indicators for capacity and flow. The distinction of capacity and flow of ecosystem services provides a parsimonious estimation of over- or underuse of the respective service. Assessment of capacity and flow in a spatially explicit way can thus support monitoring sustainability of ecosystem use, which is an essential element of ecosystem accounting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-551
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • supply-and-demand
  • decision-making
  • framework
  • classification
  • indicators
  • scales
  • land
  • sustainability
  • management
  • valuation


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