Conceptual Framework

Fig. 3.1
The chain from ecosystem structures and processes to human well-being (from TEEB 2010; www.​teebweb.​org/​EcologicalandEco​nomicFoundationD​raftChapters/​tabid/​29426/​Default.​aspx, Chap. 1, p. 11)

3.1.2 The EPPS Framework

Based on this scheme (◉ Fig. 3.1) and taking the knowledge of various schools of landscape ecology and the international scientific discussions into account, we consider the framework depicted in ◉ Fig. 3.2 appropriate for ES issues. According to this, the ‘functions’ in the sense of ecosystem integrity are directly attributed to the left pillar (‘properties of ecosystems’), while the societal functions are subsumed in the ES. This better corresponds with the German understanding of the term ‘function’ (▶ Sect. 2.​1). In the cascade model of Haines-Young and Potschin (2009) (◉ Fig. 3.1), functions represent their own intermediate step between the structure and processes on the one side and the ES on the other side. This subgroup of ecosystem processes is essential for and directly contributes to the generation of ES (Albert et al. 2012). The potentials of an ecosystem (or a landscape) show its performance and possible utilisation and, thus, they are a logical intermediate step between the properties (structure and processes) and the ES themselves (real use of nature and landscape, or demand) . This conceptual concept is called EPPS framework (derived from E cosystem P roperties, P otentials and S ervices, cp. Grunewald and Bastian 2010; Bastian et al. 2012b).


Fig. 3.2
Conceptual framework for the analysis and evaluation of ES with a particular focus on space and time aspects (from Grunewald and Bastian 2010, modified)

The basic elements of the EPPS framework will be explained in the following section. Ecosystem Properties

On the left side of the EPPS framework (◉ Fig. 3.2) are the properties of ecosystems–individual objects, parts of objects and even entire ecosystem complexes –and the structures and processes (e.g. soil qualities, nutrient cycles, biological diversity), which form the basis for all ES and, moreover, for the existence of humans and of human society in general. According to van Oudenhoven et al. (2012), ecosystem properties are the set of ecological conditions, structures, and processes that determine whether an ES can be supplied. Since this ecological endowment is, first of all, scientifically based, it has to be assigned mainly to the factual level. The (scientific) analysis of ecosystem properties is the research starting point as it enables an understanding of the functional principles of nature.

It is the matter of the performance basis, i.e. those components of nature that provide services, e.g. the particular components of specifications of ecosystems, which ensure primary production, flood regulation or aesthetic values. As a component of nature, this basis for services is materially manifested and can, in principle, be measured (Staub et al. 2011).

Hence, the analysis of ecosystem properties is predominantly driven by natural scientific methods using analytical indicators . Indicators can be rather easily analyzed and they illustrate the concerned problem especially well. Without them it is almost impossible to decipher the complicated network of relationships of ecosystems (and landscapes) (Durwen et al. 1980; Walz 2011). One category of indicators is bioindicators: organisms, whose living functions can be correlated with certain environmental factors in such a manner that they can be used as a specific indicator for them. As indicators may simplify informations and present them comprehensively, they enable decision-makers to give convincing reasons for their decisions.

There is now extensive experience in the field of analyzing ecosystems, their structures, processes and changes (e.g. in the framework of the ‘Ecosystem Research Germany’–Fränzle 1998), as well as scientific literature (e.g. Leser and Klink 1988; Bastian and Schreiber 1999).

Valueless categories like complexity, diversity, rarity, ecosystem integrity, ecosystem health or resilience also belong to the category of ‘ecosystem properties’ (de Groot et al. 2002). The concept of ‘ecological integrity’ as a precondition for the supply of ES is applied by the assessment method of Burkhard et al. (2009), and Müller and Burkhard (2007, ▶ Sect. 4.​1). According to Barkmann (2001) the ‘ecological integrity’ describes the maintenance of those structures and processes that are necessary for the ecosystems’ self-regulation capacity. The ecological integrity is mainly based on variables of energy and matter balance, as well as on structural properties of whole ecosystems. These components are similar to those defined in other ES-studies as supporting services (e.g. in MEA 2005).

Functional Traits

Sometimes only specific parts of ecosystems, single species, individuals or parts of them (roots or leafs of plants) are relevant for ecosystem services. The issue that functional groups, populations or communities, and different genotypes or species may contribute to service provision to different degrees at different times or in different places has been discussed for several years (de Bello et al. 2010). This involves the concepts of functional traits (Lavorel et al. 1998) and Service Providing Units (SPU–Luck et al. 2003; Harrington et al. 2010; Haslett et al. 2010): a SPU is ‘the collection of organisms and their characteristics necessary to deliver a given ecosystem service at the level required by service beneficiaries.’ Kremen (2005) emphasized the importance of key Ecosystem Service Providers (ESPs) and functional groups of species (e. g. population abundance and spatio-temporal variation in group membership) for service provision. Later, the SPU concept was combined with the concept of ESPs to form the SPU-ESP continuum (Luck et al. 2009), which was simplified by Rounsevell et al. (2010) as the Service Provider (SP) concept.

Despite their potential value for ecosystem service assessment, very little is known about the role of the functional, structural and genetic components of biodiversity (Diaz et al. 2007). Examples for the role of functional groups are known in soil formation, where key taxa exist, such as legumes, which are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen and build up nitrogen stores in the soil , or deep-rooted species that can relocate nutrient elements from the parent material to the surface layers. At a finer scale, sequestration of carbon in stable aggregates depends on the activity of the soil fauna: In many managed systems, control of plant pests can be provided by various generalist and specialist predators and parasitoids. Bees are the dominant taxon providing crop pollination services, but birds, bats, moths, flies and other insects can also be important. The multiple service provision by sub-alpine grasslands depends on plant functional groups, and recreational services such as bird-watching or duck-hunting rely on specific animal taxonomic groups. The literature also mentions examples of ecosystem services provided by such single species as the Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius), which ensure oak seed dispersal, or the Eurasian wildcat (Felis silvestris), the very presence of which make it a flagship species in terms of recreational/touristic value (Vandewalle et al. 2008; Haines-Young and Potschin 2009). The loss of an important functional group may cause drastic changes in the functioning of ecosystems. Ecosystem Potentials–The Capacity or Supply Side

Depending on their properties, ecosystems are able to supply services; they have particular potentials or capacities for that. Potentials (▶ Chap. 2) have consciously been included as the second, so as to distinguish between the possibility of use and an actual use, which is the expression of the real service (Bastian et al. 2012a). Potentials can be regarded and quantified as stocks of ES, while the services themselves represent the actual flows (Haines-Young et al. 2012).

In terms of ecosystem potentials, various preconditions need to be considered, e.g. the ecological carrying capacity and the resilience , which is defined as ‘the capacity of a system to absorb and utilise or even benefit from perturbations and changes that attain it, and so to persist without a qualitative change in the system’ (Holling in Ring et al. 2010).

This is closely related to the ecological stability , i.e. the persistence of an ecological system and its capacity to return to the initial situation after changes. Within the ‘stability’, we can distinguish between constancy and cyclicity (without extraneous factors), as well as between resistance and elasticity (with extraneous factors). In this regard, the carrying capacity, meaning the range of a possible use should be mentioned. It indicates to which extent particular utilisations may be tolerated. For example, high (natural) soil fertility allows the assumption of a high potential for farming, though, this alone is not sufficient if, for example, risk factors like high erosion disposition may damage the topsoil at some point, which eventually causes the loss of the usability for farming.

The assessment of ecosystem potentials also pursues the goal of ascertaining the potential use of particular services, and is more normative than a mere accounting of ecosystem properties . It constitutes an important basis for planning, e.g. for the implementation of sustainable land-use systems: the suitability of an ecosystem to carry different forms of land use can be established, the available but still unused potentials can be put to actual use, and risks can be estimated.

Biomass Potentials

The concept of potentials will be described below on the example of the “energetic use of biomass” as a presently widely discussed topic (utilization of the biotic productivity, the so-called “biotic yield potential” to produce energetically usable biomass, ▶ Sect. 4.​4.​2). The land potential for bioenergy in Germany is c. 3–4 million ha (SRU 2007), including energy crops and biomass from landscape management , the application of which can be honored by a so-called landscape management bonus under the Renewable-Energies-Act—EEG 2009). In future, regionally energetic use of biomass from landscape management measures shall make a tangible contribution to satisfy our energy requirements.

By order of the Saxon State Office for Environment, Agriculture and Geology (LfULG), the consulting firm Bosch & Partner has calculated the biomass potential of the Free State of Saxony (Peters 2009). For this purpose, data bases for the relevant area types like grassland , water margins and roadside greenery were established (◉ Fig. 3.3), and the potential was regionalized with the aid of a geographic information system (GIS). Thus, biomass potentials of c. 204,000 ha with c. 667,500 t annual yield are available in the Free State of Saxony, an amount sufficient for workable realization concepts.


Fig. 3.3
Algorithm for the calculation of the biomass potential for energetic use (According to Peters 2009)

The example shows how (potential) possibilities of natural resources use may be analyzed and evaluated. This provides an important basis for planning purposes. On this basis, the existing but still almost not used potential may be used properly–in this case for bioenergy production–if there are appropriate framework conditions (e. g. technology, logistics, remuneration). Not only would the energy sector benefit from it but also the socio-economic significance and the social standing of nature conservation . Ecosystem Services

Only human needs or demands actually convert a potential into a real service. ES, the third pillar of the framework (◉ Fig. 3.2), reflect an even stronger human perspective (value level) , since the services (and goods) are in fact currently valued, demanded, or used. In other words, the status of an ES is influenced not only by its provision of a certain service, but also by human needs and the desired level of provision for this service by society, which connects inseparably supply and demand of ES (Burkhard et al. 2012; Syrbe and Walz 2012) .

We regard services and (societal) functions as synonyms. The term ‘function’ stands for a benefit-oriented view, not for the functioning of ecosystems in the sense of processes, cycles, etc. We prefer a tripartite classification of functions (Bastian and Schreiber 1999) or ES (Grunewald and Bastian 2010): provisioning, regulation and sociocultural services (▶ Sect. 3.2).

The analysis of ES always involves a valuation step, e.g. scientific findings (facts) are transformed into human driven value categories. The decisive factor is the combination of the various causal areas in the relationship between society and nature, one example being economic valuation (e.g. Costanza et al. 1997; Spangenberg and Settele 2010).

Intact ecosystems provide a wide variety of ES that are characterised by complex interrelations (trade-offs, see below). Some ES are strictly related or occur in bundles and, therefore, are influenced positively or negatively if a particular ES is enhanced (e.g. the maximisation of the yield of an arable field at the expense of regulation ES, like carbon sequestration, or habitat services) . The manner of connections and interrelations between single ES is still an issue with significant knowledge gaps (MEA 2005).

Although the EPPS framework focuses on the benefits produced, it also implicitly includes negative social or economic effects of ecosystems (and landscapes) to human well-being, so-called ‘disservices’ (Lyytimäki and Sipilä 2009; Dunn 2010).

As previously stated, the term ES is only justified if ecosystems and their processes generate a benefit for humans. Status and value of ES are determined by the demand depending on the societal conditions. The actual land use reflects such a demand. For the application of the ES concept, the demand side plays a crucial role. Nevertheless, in contrast to ‘ecological’ assessments and plannings (e.g. within landscape planning , cp. Wende et al. 2011a; Albert et al. 2012), spatially precise rep­resentations of the demand or the comparison of supply and demand are still rarely implemented (▶ Sect. 5.​3). The demand for services, however, is the basis of an appropriate spatial planning . To analyze the demand, information about the actual, intended or desired use of ES is needed, e.g. through socio-economic modelling, statistics, or questionnaires (Burkhard et al. 2012). Suitable data is often only available to a limited extent. They must be specifically collected, which mostly entails a significant amount of work.

Both sections ▶ Chaps. 4 and ▶ 5 and the case studies give an overview of common methodological approaches for assessing ES (▶ Chap. 6). Benefits, Values and Welfare

Through the link ‘ecosystem services’, human beings benefit from ecosystems. That means, ecosystems yield benefits and values (fourth pillar of the EPPS framework), which contribute to human well-being. The benefit is the sociocultural or economic welfare gain provided through the ES, such as health, employment, and income. Moreover, the benefits of ES must have a direct relationship to human well­being (Fisher and Turner (2008). Value is most commonly defined as the contribution of ES to goals, objectives or conditions that are specified by a user (van Oudenhoven et al. 2012). Actors in society can attach a value to these benefits. Monetary value can help to internalise so-called externalities (impacts and side effects) in economic valuation procedures so that they can be better taken into account in decision-making processes at all levels. It should be noted that not all dimensions of human well-being can be expressed in monetary terms, e.g. cultural and spiritual values.

For human well-being factors like health, prevention of psychological damages, aesthetic pleasure, recreation, food supply, and economic prosperity are crucial. They are influenced positively by ES. For the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA 2005) and several other authors (e.g. Costanza et al. 1997; Wallace 2007) ES and benefits are identical .

In order to measure benefits and values, an evaluation step is necessary. Generally, an evaluation is a relation between an evaluating subject and an object of evaluation, or the degree of fulfilment in comparison with predetermined objectives. This relation has two dimensions:

  • Factual dimension: facts on the object to be evaluated for the reflection of the reality

  • Value dimension : value system or basic values as a normative basis for the value judgment (Bechmann 1989, 1995)

The evaluation shows the extent to which the pre­sent state differs from the desired or planned one (Auhagen 1998). The literature often uses the term ‘evaluation’ ambiguously (Wiegleb 1997), e.g. in the sense of basic assessment (scaling), judgment, ranking (relative comparison), or plan/actual comparisons (= evaluation sensu stricto).

An evaluation is the crucial step to process analytical data concerning decision-making and action, i.e. to convert scientific parameters into socio-political categories.

An evaluation sensu stricto indicates the extent and the manner of necessary measures. It provides the norms and orientations for the concrete action, which is always a decision between several options. If an evaluation shall be generally valid, the consensus of the human society is necessary; it is a matter of conventions and, thus, depending on the situation and time. Therefore, evaluation can never be objective. The skill of evaluation is the combination of facts and standards of value with sensible judgement. Evaluations are always based on the competence of the evaluating subject. On no account does subjectivity mean arbitrariness or irrationality since an evaluation is or should be also comprehended by other subjects (intersubjectivity). Necessary preconditions for this are disclosed facts and standards of value that are combined in a systematical manner, i.e. using well-defined assessment procedures (Bechmann 1995; Bastian and Steinhardt 2002).

There are quite different motivations to valuate ES. These motivations heavily depend on moral, aesthetic, and other cultural perspectives (Hein et al. 2006).

It is often neglected that scientific findings are in principle free of value. That means that there is no logical conclusion on the desired situation (normative consideration) from being (actual state, descriptive consideration). In other words: it is not possible to derive value judgments from ecological findings or to answer respective questions such as ‘Which nature we want to protect?’ or ‘How nature shall be protected?’ Things are not valuable per se, but because we appreciate them and decide so.

Already Hume (1740) referred in his ‘A Treatise of Human Nature’ to the problem of the dichotomy between what is and what ought to be. As a term for the derivation of norms from nature, Moore introduced the term ‘naturalistic fallacy’ in his ‘Principa Ethica’ in 1903 (see Erdmann et al. 2002). Terms like naturalness , rarity , etc. don’t necessarily prejudge a value decision. The protection of rare species must be justified because not all rare things are per se worthy of protection. A near-natural vegetation is not generally desirable, e.g. from the farmer’s point of view if he looks at his weedy arable field. However, from a nature conservation point of view, a near-natural vegetation can also be undesired if, for instance, a colourful flowering meadow owing its existence to human influences shall be conserved and not become fallow-field, shrubland or forest.

The sense of formalised evaluation algorithms is to rationalise the (landscape) planning process and to increase the acceptance of the results by society.

For the analysis of benefits and values in the ES context, monetary valuation is often regarded as the method of choice. The sole orientation to the monetary valuation of ES, however, is increasingly regarded critical (Spangenberg and Settele 2010). On the other side, studies on the implementation of measures and their financial consequences (e.g. Lütz and Bastian 2000; von Haaren and Bathke 2008; Grossmann et al. 2010), have shown that a monetary valuation of services may provide incentives for alterations in existing management rules or decision support for certain problem solutions. Monetary values served to internalise so-called externalities (external influences, impacts) in economic valuation methods in order to take them better into account in decision processes at all levels (▶ Sect. 4.​2) .

In addition to the economic evaluation , other approaches must also be observed to show the importance of ES. Other dimension of human well-being that cannot be expressed in monetary values , e.g. cultural and spiritual values, should also be integrated. Participative methods have a great significance, i.e. the participation of stakeholders . The preferences for certain ES are negotiated within society. As a basis, adequate background knowledge is indispensable, which entails ecological as well as economic information (▶ Sect. 4.​3).

In principle we distinguish between three types of methods for the evaluation of ES (▶ Sect. 4.​1, ▶ Sect. 4.​2 and ▶ Sect. 4.​3): quantitative expert methods (mainly ecologically or physically based), economic/monetary methods and participative, scenario-based methods. Complex methods as combinations of these three methods are discussed in ▶ Sect. 4.​4.

Classification of ES Related Values (▶ Sect. 2.​3 and ▶ Sect. 4.​2)

ES-related values can be classified into two categories: use values and non-use values . Use values refer to the present, future or potential use of an ES. They encompass direct and indirect use values , option values and quasi-option values .

Values for hunting, fishery and medical plants are examples for use values. All provisioning and some socio-cultural services (e. g. recreation) provide direct use values . Indirect use values refer especially to the positive effects of ecosystems. Examples are the values of pollination and decomposition of toxic substances.

Option values und quasi-option values are connected with information and uncertainty. As humans are not sure what are their future demands, circumstances of life and then available information, they evaluate the option of a possible future use, and they take the expected information growth into account.

Society attributes non-use values to the mere existence of an ecosystem, regardless of the use of its services (existence values) . Altruistic values (benefits of existence for other people) and bequest values (benefits for the well-being of future generations) also belong to this heading. It is often difficult to differentiate the single categories of non-use values, both conceptually and empirically (Hein et al. 2006).

Quasi-option values represent the value of irreversible decisions, until new information is not available, which may indicate today still unknown values of ecosystems. Quasi-option values, too, are difficult to assess in practice (Hein et al. 2006). They are strongly corresponding with the concept of natural potentials . Beneficiaries of ES/Actors

An ecosystem service is only a service if there is a human benefit. Without human beneficiaries, there are no ES (Fisher et al. 2009). Accordingly, a disservice only exists if humans suffer harm. The stakeholders, providers, users or beneficiaries of ecosystems and their services (pillar 5 of the EPPS framework) can be single persons, groups, or society as a whole. Not only do they depend or benefit from ecosystems, they in turn react upon ecosystems through land use, management, decision, regulation, etc. (▶ Chap. 5).

The identification of beneficiaries of ES helps to develop environmental-political steering instruments to set incentives in a targeted manner for a more careful management of ecosystems and the services they deliver. The key question is: Who benefits where from which ES? The following cases can be distinguished (Kettunen et al. 2009):

  • Local public benefits: a site’s role in supporting local identity, local recreation, local nonmarket forest products and the local ‘brand’, etc.

  • Local private benefits: a site’s support to natural water purification resulting in lower pretreatment costs to the local water supply company, etc.

  • Local public sector benefits: a site’s abilities to mitigate floods resulting to lower public investment in flood control and/or flood damage , etc.

  • Regional and cross-border benefits: regulation of climate and floods, mitigation of wild fires, provisioning and purification of water in transnational river basins, etc.

  • International/global public benefits: a site’s provision of habitat for a migratory species at some point in its annual cycle, regulation of climate (carbon capture and storage), maintenance of global species and genetic diversity , etc.

  • International private benefits: new pharmaceutical or medicinal product derived via bioprospecting, etc. Trade-Offs, Limit Values, Driving Forces and Scenarios

Other very important points of view regarding ES are related e.g. to the so-called trade-offs. They describe the multiple interactions and linkages among services; this means that management aimed at providing a single service (e.g. food, fibre, water) often reduces biodiversity and the provision of other services (Ring et al. 2010). Some ES co-vary positively but others negatively. For example, the increase of provisioning ES may reduce many regulation ES. Thus, the growth of agricultural production may reduce carbon storage in the soils , water regulation and/or sociocultural ES. The TEEB study (TEEB 2009) distinguishes between: 1. Temporal trade-offs: Benefits now–costs later, 2. Spatial trade-offs: benefits here–costs there, 3. Beneficiary trade-offs: Some win–others lose, 4. Service trade-offs: Enhancing one ES–reduces another.

All pillars or categories of the framework can or should be analyzed and differentiated in terms of space (e.g. scale, dimension, patterns) and time (e.g. driving forces, changes, scenarios) aspects (▶ Sect. 3.3).

Ecosystems can go through fairly big changes: If critical thresholds or limit values are exceeded, substantial changes cannot be excluded, e.g. the eutrophication of lakes, the degradation of farmland, the collapse of fish stocks or coral reefs .

Ecosystem changes can be triggered by various, partly superposed driving forces . Artner et al. (2005) distinguished between fixed factors or drivers, e.g. the ongoing globalisation, the demographic change and variable factors like the economic development, the societal governance , leisure behaviour, the traffic volume, the consumption of resources and the structural development.

The status of ES can be predicted or analyzed under the assumption of different scenarios. In contrast to a prognosis, a scenario is no forecast and not correlated with a statement on the probability of occurrence. Instead it represents a possible development under defined, predictable conditions. A set of scenarios can be used to simulate possible long-term effects and consequences of decisions (Dunlop et al. 2002) (▶ Sect. 4.​3). Scenarios inform the decision-maker about possible welfare gains and losses. Not only do the changes in ecosystems and ES have to be considered, but also the variability of values. Value orientations are subject to cycles and trends (one of the best examples are fashion trends). The future development of societal values depends on many factors. As the value scales, e.g. the value of money , may change, monetary valuations of future states are subject to considerable uncertainties (see the discounting of ES, ▶ Sect. 4.​2).

3.1.3 The Application of the EPPS Framework–The Example ‘Mountain Meadow’

Finally, the application of the EPPS framework will be demonstrated with an example, the ecosystem (type) ‘mountain meadow’.

Mountain meadows are species-rich, extensively used meadows of fresh to medium moist sites of mountains above c. 500 m a.s.l. Depending on the geographical situation, nutrient content, moisture balance of soils, type and intensity of use or management, e.g. cutting frequency and fertilisation, mountain meadows occur in different specifications.

For the capacity of mountain meadows to deliver ES, particular characteristics, combinations of them or parts of ecosystems (functional traits–see above) are crucial, e.g. nutrient and water balance, the combination of species and usage intensity. Mountain meadows have the potential to deliver manifold ES of all three classes–provisioning, regulation and sociocultural services , among them:

  • Provisioning services : provision of fodder plants for livestock, biochemical/pharmaceutical substances (spignel plants–Meum athamanticum–and other herbs), drinking water

  • Regulation services: cold air production, water retention and flood prevention, erosion control, habitat services

  • Sociocultural services : aesthetic values (e.g. scenery) , recreation and eco-tourism, culture-historical aspects

Not all of these potentials are really used. There is almost no demand for the biomass from species-rich but low yielding meadows since the current dairy cattle farming trimmed for high-performance has no use for it. The energetic use of scrap materials from landscaping is not very advanced either. Until a market or customers for such materials will come into existence, no benefit or value in an economic sense can be attributed. The situation with biodiversity and aesthetic values is quite different, although a quantification or even monetisation is anything but easy. Irrespective of this, colourful flowering meadows contribute to human well-being because of their beauty and if their occurrence is related to the attractiveness of holiday regions, economic values can be derived, for instance, in the form of the number of tourists traveling there just because of these attractive mountain meadows. In this case, tourists and touristic enterprises can be regarded as beneficiaries, with regard to the maintenance of biodiversity the whole society or even the European Community (in the case of Natura 2000, ▶ Sect. 6.​6.​1) .

Mountain meadows seem to be natural, but they represent ecosystems created by humans through regular cutting. Hence, an adequate usage or management must be ensured so that the mountain meadows as such and the related/relevant ES are maintained. This requires human labour, e.g. of agricultural enterprises, landscape management associations, or nature conservation organisations. The ones ensuring the ongoing existence of the meadows and the provision of ES with their activities are not always identical with the beneficiaries. However, as society is interested in, for example, the conservation of biodiversity, which is reflected in many laws, contracts, conventions and strategies at different levels, the expense is remunerated in monetary terms (▶ Sect. 6.​2). Simultaneously, society ensures for necessary legal instruments in the form of protected areas (nature reserves, Natura 2000, etc.).

All these levels, starting from the ecosystem ‘mountain meadow’ (physical level, factual level) over the ES (intermediate level) to the benefits and beneficiaries (socio-economic level) are subjected to manifold space and time aspects (▶ Sect. 3.3). Thus, at the ecosystem level, the size of the mountain meadow or its arrangement in the biotope mosaic is important, so that the requirements of particular species are met. As a rule, a large mountain meadow delivers more services than a small one, if the other properties are more or less identical; a big flowering meadow has a higher aesthetic effect as a smaller one. Also, benefits and beneficiaries are subject of strong spatial relationships . Thus, the local landscape management association ensures the maintenance of the mountain meadow, and the travelling tourists benefit from its aesthetic values. The effect of the ‘conservation of biodiversity’ is difficult to narrow down in terms of its effective radius, but it may refer–as with Natura 2000–to the whole EU and even other countries.

In terms of time aspects, first of all the changes to which the ecosystems are subjected should be regarded, this is especially the case with mountain meadows due to improper or missing usage or management. Over time attitudes and value systems of people may change.

Changes are triggered by driving forces : globalisation and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU, but also technological progress reducing the attractiveness of mountain meadows for agriculture. Demographic change goes hand in hand with a shortage of personnel in voluntary nature conservation, i.e. less actors are available who will take care of the mountain meadows (Wende et al. 2012). Climate change , too, will doubtless have some measure of impact on such sensible ecosystems.

3.2 Classification of ES

O. Bastian, K. Grunewald6 and R.-U. Syrbe5

Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung, Weberplatz 1, 01217 Dresden, Germany

Zöllmener Str. 11 b, 01705 Freital, Germany


3.2.1 Introduction

In view of the diversity and complexity of ecosystems and the services they supply, it is difficult to develop a classification of ES which is clear, widely accepted, and meets broad requirements. With respect to the classification of ecosystem and landscape functions, potentials and services, there are numerous proposals, classification systems and partly divergent opinions. Depending on the goals of the assessment, spatial scales and specific decision-making context, they all show both strengths and weaknesses.

For the past decades science has been trying to determine a way of classifying ecosystem functions (and services). In 1977, Niemann distinguished four groups of functions: production, landscape-shaping (ecological), human-ecological, and aesthetic ones. Van der Maarel and Dauvellier (1978) declared production, carrier, information, regulation and reservoir functions as societal functions of the physical landscape. Bastian and Schreiber (1999) divided landscape functions into three groups: so-called production functions (economic functions), regulation functions (ecological functions) and habitat functions (sociocultural functions). Each group was again classified into main-functions and sub-functions.

De Groot et al. (1992, 2002) defined regulation, production, habitat, and information functions (or services). The TEEB study also identifies the habitat services as a separate category to stress the importance of ecosystems to provide habitat for migratory species and gene-pool ‘protectors’ (TEEB 2010). Using the definition of Costanza et al. (1997), the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA 2005) provided a simple typology of services that has been widely taken-up in the international research and policy literature:

  • Provisioning services , e.g. food, drinking water, timber

  • Regulating services , e.g. flood protection, air pollution control

  • Cultural services, e.g. recreation services

  • Supporting services : all processes that ensure necessary preconditions for the existence of ecosystems, e.g. nutrient cycle.

The ES classification systems outlined above shows numerous commonalities, mainly in the three classes provisioning, regulating and cultural services. There is disagreement about the assignment of phenomena, which are the basis for the services of the three other classes. This applies to the supporting services (or basic services , ecosystem integrity –e.g. Müller and Burkhard 2007). We consider supporting services an intermediate (analytical) stage. They are a prerequisite for defining the other three groups of services, but they are more related to the first pillar of our EPPS framework (▶ Sect. 3.1), that of ecosystem properties . Other authors (e.g. Pfisterer et al. 2005, Burkhard et al. 2009, Hein et al. 2006, OECD 2008, Haines-Young and Potschin 2010) also suggest treating them differently from the other ES, which provide their benefits directly to humans. Due to thematic overlaps with regulating ES there is a high risk of double-counting (Hein et al. 2006, Burkhard et al. 2009, see Box p. 51).

The breakdown into productive (economic), regulating (ecological), and societal functions or services (Bastian and Schreiber 1999, Bastian et al. 2012b) has the advantage that it can be linked to both fundamental concepts of sustainability and risk using the established ecological, economic, and social development categories. We adjust the supporting services–depending on the respective situation–to the regulative services or the ecological processes (e.g. nutrient cycles, food chains).

Ultimately, the classification depends on the respective researcher. As a rule, three or four groups with a total of 15 to 30 functions or services are distinguished. For useful results, they must be further specified. Moreover, information on suitable indicators that describe these ES is necessary. In this respect there are still severe deficits in the literature (Jessel et al. 2009, TEEB 2009).

Below we present an overview of ES supplied by terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems based on current knowledge (e.g. Costanza et al. 1997, de Groot et al. 2002, Müller and Burkhard 2007, Vandewalle et al. 2008) and on our own experiences and reflections (Tab. 3.13.3). We classify 30 ES according to three main categories: provisioning, regulation and sociocultural services -each with subdivisions. Furthermore, we provide a short definition and description with examples and mention selected indicators for the analysis or the assessment of the ES with no claim to completeness.

3.2.2 Provisioning Services

Ecosystems may provide many goods and services from oxygen and water to food and energy to medicinal and genetic resources, and materials for clothing and shelter. As a rule, these goods and services refer to renewable biotic resources, i.e. the products of living plants and animals. Abiotic resources (raw materials near the earth’s surface), wind and solar energy cannot be assigned to particular ecosystems; hence, they are not, in our view, to be considered ecosystem goods and services. Especially in ecosystems strongly modified by humans (e.g. farmland) it is difficult to differentiate between the natural and human inputs in labour, material and energy to a service or a good (◉ Table 3.1) .

Table 3.1
Provisioning services

Code/Name of the ecosystem services





I Food (provision of plant and animal materials)

P.1 Food and forage plants

Cultivated plants as food/forage for humans and animals

Cereals, vegetables, fruits, edible oil,


Harvested yields (dt ha−1), contribution margin (€ ha−1)

P.2 Livestock

Slaughter and productive livestock

Cattle, pigs,

horses, poultry

Stock density (livestock units per ha), contribution margin (€ ha−1)

P.3 Wild fruits and game

Edible plants and animals from the wilderness

Berries, mushrooms, game

Shooting quota (animals per ha), yields (€ ha−1)

P.4 Wild fish

Fishes and seafood caught in waters

Eels, herrings, shrimps, shells

Catch quota and numbers, harvest amounts (t ha−1), revenues (€ ha−1)

P.5 Aquaculture

Fishes, shells or algae growing in ponds or farming installations

Carps, shrimps, oysters

Produced amounts (t ha−1), revenues (€ ha−1)

II Renewable raw materials

P.6 Wood and tree products

Raw materials from trees in forests, plantations or agro-forest systems

Timber, cellulose, resin, natural rubber

Stock, growth, yields (m3 ha−1, t ha−1), revenues (€ ha−1)

P.7 Vegetable fibres

Fibres from herbaceous plants (from nature or cultivated)

Cotton, hemp, flax, sisal

Yields (t ha−1), revenues (€ ha−1)

P.8 Regrowing energy sources

Biomass from energy crops and wastes

Fire wood, charcoal, maize, rape, dung, liquid manure

Yields (t ha−1), energy amount (MJ ha−1)

P.9 Other natural materials

Materials for industry, crafts, decoration, arts, souvenirs

Leather, flavorings, pearls, feathers, ornamental fishes

Sold units (e.g. furs per year), revenues (€ ha−1)

III Other renewable natural resources

P.10 Genetic resources

Genes und genetical information for breeding and biotechnology

Seeds, resistance genes

Number of species

P.11 Biochemicals, natural medicine

Raw materials for medicine, cosmetics and others to enhance health and well-being

Etheric oils, tees, Echinacea, garlic, food supplements, leeches, natural crop protection products

Yields, amounts of active substance (kg ha−1), revenues (€ ha−1)

P.12 Freshwater

Clean water in ground- and surface waters, precipitation and in the underground for private, industrial and agricultural use

Rain, spring and fountain discharge, bank filtrate

Raw water, drinking water (Tm³ a−1), revenues (€ ha−1)

3.2.3 Regulation Services

The biosphere and its ecosystems are the main preconditions for human life. Processes like energy transformation mainly from solar radiation into biomass , storage and transfer of mineral material and energy in food chains, bio-geochemical cycles, mineralisation of organic matter in soils and climate regulation are essential for life on earth . On the other hand, these processes are influenced and enabled by the interaction of abiotic factors with living organisms. The existence and functioning of–particularly natural and semi-natural–ecosystems must be ensured so that people will be able to continue benefiting from these processes in the future. Due to the ‘merely’ indirect benefits of regulation services (Tab. 3.2), they are often overlooked and not sufficiently considered until they are damaged or lost, although they are the basis for human life on earth (De Groot et al. 2002).

Tab. 3.2
Regulation services

Code/Name of the ecosystem services





I Climatologic and air hygienic services

R.1 Air quality regulation

Air cleaning, gas exchange

Filter effects (fine dust, aerosols), oxygen production

Proportion of forests (%), leaf area index

R.2 Climate regulation

Impacts on the maintenance of natural climatic processes and on reducing the risks of extreme weather events

Cold air production, humification, reducing temperature by the vegetation, weakening of extreme temperatures and storms

Proportion of forests and open areas (%), slope (°), albedo

R.3 Carbon sequestration

Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and relocation into sinks

Photosynthesis, fixation in the vegetation cover and in soils

Proportion of vegetation areas (%), soil forms (e.g. peat)

R.4 Noise protection

Reducing noise immissions by vegetation and surface forms

Noise protection effects of vegetation

Vitality, layering and density of vegetation

II Hydrological services

R.5 Water regulation

Balancing impacts on the water level of watercourses and the height, duration, delay and avoiding floods, droughts and (forest) fires, protection against tidal flooding (e.g. by coral reefs, mangroves), water as transport medium, water power

Natural irrigation, soil storage, leaching/groundwater recharge

Slope (°), land use (land cover) (%), soil types

R.6 Water purification

Filter effects, storage of nutrients, decomposition of wastes

Nitrogen retention, denitrification, self-purification of rivers and lakes

Land cover (%), soil type, water structure and stream margins

III Pedological services

R.7 Erosion protection

Effects of vegetation on soil erosion, sedimentation, capping and silting

Protection against landslides and avalanches, breaking winds

Slope (°), soil types, land use, permanent land cover, slope protection forests, crop spectrum

R.8 Maintenance of soil fertility

Regeneration of soil quality by the edaphon (soil organisms), soil generation (pedogenesis) and nutrient cycles

Nitrogen fixation, waste decomposition, humus formation and accumulation

Crop diversity, soil types, removal of harvest remnants and wood

IV Biological services (habitat functions)

R.9 Regulation of pests and diseases

Mitigating influences on pests and the spread of epidemics

Songbirds, lacewings, ladybirds, parasitic wasps, tics (Encephalitis)

Biocides applied, naturalness and vitality of the vegetation, proportion of (semi-) natural vegetation areas (%), species spectrum (parasites, predators, pests)

R.10 Pollination

Spread of pollens and seeds of wild and domestic plants

Honey and wild bees, bumblebees, butterflies, syrphid flies

Proportion of (semi-)natural vegetation areas (%), biocide application, proportion of flowering plants, genetically modified organisms

R.11 Maintenance of biodiversity

Conservation of wild species and breeds of cultivated plants and livestock

Refuge and reproduction habitats of wild plants and animals, partial habitats of migrating species, nursery spaces (e.g. spawning grounds for fishes), cattle breeds

Natural/semi-natural vegetation (proportion %), naturalness structural diversity, biotope compound, number of species, rarity, endangering

3.2.4 Sociocultural Services

Especially natural and semi-natural ecosystems provide manifold opportunities for enjoyment, inspiration, intellectual enrichment, aesthetic delight and recreation. Such ‘psychological-social’ services are no less important to people than regulation and provisioning services ; however, they are often neglected or not fully appreciated. One reason is the difficulty of valuating them economically, especially in monetary terms. A second group includes information services, i.e. the contribution of ecosystems to knowledge and education (Tab. 3.3).

Tab. 3.3
Sociocultural services

Code/Name of the ecosystem services





I Psychological-social goods and services

C.1 Ethical, spiritual, religious values

Possibility to live in harmony with nature, Integrity of Creation, freedom of choice, fairness, generational equity

Bioproducts, sacred places

Natural/semi-natural vegetation (%), extinct/threatened, genetically modified organisms, biocide application

C.2 Aesthetic values

Diversity, beauty, singularity, naturalness of nature and landscape

Flowering mountain meadows, harmonious landscape

Land use, vegetation types, crop diversity, relief diversity/slopes

C.3 Identification

Possibility for personal bonds and sense of home in a landscape

Natural and cultural heritage, places of memory, traditional knowledge

Natural and cultural monuments, historical landscape elements, architectural styles, persistence/continuity of landscape

C.4 Opportunities for recreation and (eco)tourism

Conditions for sports, recreation and leisure activities in nature and landscape

Accessibility, security, stimuli

Level of accessibility, carrying capacity, snow cover, number and area of waters, attractive species, number of visitors

II Information services

C.5 Education and training values, scientific insights

Opportunities to gain knowledge about natural interrelations, processes and genesis, scientific research and technological innovations

Natural soil profiles, functioning ecosystems, rare species, traditional land knowledge

Natural and cultural monuments, land-use forms, naturalness

C.6 Mental, spiritual and artistic inspiration

Stimulating fantasy and inventiveness, inspiration in architecture, painting, photography, musics, dance, fashion, folklore

Impressive landscapes, mounts, rivers, cliffs, old trees

Natural and cultural monuments, diversity of the land

C.7 Environmental indication

Gaining knowledge of environmental conditions, changes and threats by visually perceptible structures, processes and species

Indication with lichens (air quality), indicator plants (site conditions)

Species spectrum (ecological groups), number of lichen species, indicator organisms, naturalness

3.2.5 Additional Classification Aspects

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