In order to reconcile landscape conservation with changing demands on land use and natural resources, it is essential that the ecological, socio-cultural and economic values of the landscape be fully taken into account in planning and decision-making. This paper presents a comprehensive framework for integrated assessment of ecological services and socio-economic benefits of natural and semi-natural ecosystems and landscapes. The framework can be applied at different scale levels to different ecosystems or landscape-units and basically consists of three steps: (1) Function-analysis: translates ecological complexity into a limited number of ecosystem (or landscape) functions, which, in turn, provide a range of goods and services; (2) Function valuation: includes ecological, socio-cultural and economic valuation methods; and (3) Conflict analysis: to facilitate the application of function-analysis and valuation at different scale levels, it is important to integrate analytical valuation methods with stakeholder participation techniques. The framework presented in this paper facilitates the structured assessment of the (total) value of the goods and services provided by a specific area (landscape) and to analyze the costs and benefits involved in trade-offs between various land use options. The last section of this paper gives some conclusions and recommendations for application-possibilities of function-analysis and valuation to achieve more sustainable landscape use and maintenance of our "natural capital".
- ecosystem services