Selecting methods for ecosystem service assessment: A decision tree approach

Paula A. Harrison*, Rob Dunford, David N. Barton, Eszter Kelemen, Berta Martín-López, Lisa Norton, Mette Termansen, Heli Saarikoski, Kees Hendriks, Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Bálint Czúcz, Marina García-Llorente, David Howard, Sander Jacobs, Martin Karlsen, Leena Kopperoinen, Andes Madsen, Graciela M. Rusch, Michiel van Eupen, Peter VerweijRon Smith, Diana Tuomasjukka, Grazia Zulian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

159 Citations (Scopus)


A range of methods are available for assessing ecosystem services. Methods differ in their aims; from mapping and modelling the supply and demand of ecosystem services to appraising their economic and non-economic importance through valuation techniques. Comprehensive guidance for the selection of appropriate ecosystem service assessment methods that address the requirements of different decision-making contexts is lacking. This paper tackles this gap using the experience from 27 case studies which applied different biophysical, socio-cultural and monetary valuation methods to operationalise the ecosystem service concept towards sustainable land, water and urban management. A survey of the reasons why the case study teams selected particular methods revealed that stakeholder-oriented reasons, such as stakeholder participation, inclusion of local knowledge and ease of communication, and decision-oriented reasons, such as the purpose of the case study and the ecosystem services at stake, were key considerations in selecting a method. Pragmatic reasons such as available data, resources and expertise were also important factors. This information was used to develop a set of linked decision trees, which aim to provide guidance to researchers and practitioners in choosing ecosystem service assessment methods that are suitable for their context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-498
JournalEcosystem Services
Issue numberpt. C
Early online date21 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Biophysical
  • Decision trees
  • Guidance
  • Method
  • Monetary
  • Socio-cultural
  • Tool


Dive into the research topics of 'Selecting methods for ecosystem service assessment: A decision tree approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this