The assessment of ecosystem services intends to trace back and forth the dependences of human wellbeing to ecosystem components, processes and functions. The assessment can include any kind of available knowledge on these. It can take the shape of narratives, illustration, quantification, conceptual or simulation models…


The variability among living organisms from all sources, including inter alia terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part, this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems [cf. Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992, in Maes et al., 2013].

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity, known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty. The Convention has three main goals:

  • conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity);
  • sustainable use of its components;
  • and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

The Convention was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro on June, 5th 1992 and entered into force on December, 29th 1993.

Cultural services

are the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences.

Ecosystem service

a broad term to describe the collective benefits of natural ecosystems to humankind.  Ecosystem services can be defined in a variety of ways, including:

  • ‘…the benefits human populations derive, directly or indirectly, from ecosystem functions’
  • ‘…the benefits people obtain from ecosystems’
  • ‘…services provided by the natural environment that benefit people’
  • ‘…the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human well-being’

The common emphasis is the beneficial role played by ecosystems in enhancing or maintaining aspects of human well-being and thereby human society e.g. food production, climate regulation, flood protection, pollution sinks, and recreational and aesthetic benefits.

Ecosystem Services Approach

is a tool to identify ecosystem services and assess how the associated benefits are linked to ecosystem processes, habitats and species. These services and benefits can be valued in terms of their contribution to our economic, social and cultural wellbeing.


European Union


A Geographic Information System is an information system that integrates, stores, edits, analyzes, shares, and displays geographic information.


are now defined in European Directives as recognizable spaces which can be distinguished by their abiotic characteristics and associated biological assemblages [ICES, 2013].

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

is a scientific intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations, set up at the request of member governments.It was first established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 43/53. Membership of the IPCC is open to all members of the WMO and UNEP. The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the main international treaty on climate change.

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

is an independent intergovernmental body established to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. It was established in Panama City, on 21 April 2012 by 94 governments.

International Union for Conservation of Nature

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, lobbying and education. IUCN’s mission is to « influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.”

Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being. From 2001 to 2005, the MA involved the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide. Their findings provide a state-of-the-art scientific appraisal of the condition and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide, as well as the scientific basis for action to conserve and use them sustainably.

Provisioning services

are the products obtained from ecosystems, including food derived from animals, plants and microbs, biological material for medicines or food additives, material such as wood and energy derived from biological material.

Regulating services

are the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including climate and water regulation, erosion control, water purification and waste treatment, regulation of human diseases, biological control and storm protection.

Supporting services

are those that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services; they differ from the formers in that their impacts on people are either indirect or occur over a very long time, whereas changes in the other categories have relatively direct and short-term impacts on people.

Sustainable development

is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given;
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. [Brudtland report, 1987]

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

is an international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity. Its objective is to highlight the growing cost of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions.

TEEB aims to assess, communicate and mainstream the urgency of actions through its five deliverables:

  • D0: science and economic foundations, policy costs and costs of inaction
  • D1: policy opportunities for national and international policy-makers
  • D2: decision support for local administrators
  • D3: business risks, opportunities and metrics
  • D4: citizen and consumer ownership.

United Nations Environment Programme

is an agency of the United Nations that coordinates its environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded by Maurice Strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.


The VALMER (Valuing Marine Ecosystem Services) project is an eleven partner, €4.7 million project co-funded by the INTERREG IV A Channel programme through the European Regional Development Fund, which aims to examine how improved marine ecosystem services assessment can support effective and informed marine management and planning.


Valuation is a component of the assessment. It is the qualification and quantification of the benefits to humans.

  • When possible, this valuation can be done in monetary terms. This is relevant for commercial benefits, but can also be applied to non commercial uses. The non-use benefits of nature conservation and other environmental development can also be measured in monetary terms, under the condition that valuation methodologies are properly implemented.
  • In any case, other criteria can be used to recognise values attached to ecosystem services particularly in the case of benefits that are not linked to direct uses. One should recognise that values are not only of economic nature. There are in nature also moral and ethic values.

Photo: © Manuelle Philippe / UBO