Selected References on Ecosystem Services

The Global Status and Trends of Payments for Ecosystem Services

By James Salzman, Genevieve Bennett, Nathaniel Carroll, Allie Goldstein and Michael Jenkins

Recent decades have witnessed a considerable increase in Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)—programmes that exchange value for land management practices intended to provide or ensure ecosystem services—with over 550 active programmes around the globe and an estimated US$36–42 billion in annual transactions. PES represent a recent policy instrument with often very different programmes operating at local, regional and national levels. Despite the growth of these programmes, comprehensive and reliable data have proven difficult to find. This Analysis provides an assessment of the trends and current status of PES mechanisms—user-financed, government-financed and compliance—across the domains of water, biodiversity, and forest and land-use carbon around the world. We report the various dimensions of growth over the past decade (number of programmes, geographical spread, dollar value) to understand better the range of PES mechanisms over time and to examine which factors have contributed to or hindered growth. Four key features stand out for scaling up PES: motivated buyers, motivated sellers, metrics and low-transaction-cost institutions.

Benefit-Relevant Indicators: Ecosystem Services Measures That Link Ecological and Social Outcomes

By Lydia P. Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, James Kagan, Lynn A. Maguire, Stephen Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer

There is a growing movement in government, environmental NGOs, and the private sector to include ecosystem services in decision making—that is, measuring how much a change in ecological conditions affects people, social benefit, or value to society. Despite consensus around the general merit of accounting for ecosystem services, systematic guidance on what to measure and how is lacking. Current ecosystem services assessments often resort to biophysical proxies (e.g., area of wetland in a floodplain) or even disregard services that seem difficult to measure. Valuation, an important tool for assessing trade-offs and comparing outcomes, is also frequently omitted. This article in Ecological Indicators proposes the use of a new type of indicator that explicitly reflects an ecosystem’s capacity to provide benefits to society, ensuring that ecosystem services assessments measure outcomes that are demonstrably and directly relevant to human welfare.

So You Want Your Research to Be Relevant? Building the Bridge between Ecosystem Services Research and Practice

By Lydia Olander, Stephen Polasky, James S. Kagan, Robert J. Johnston, Lisa Wainger, David Saah, Lynn Maguire, James Boyd, and David Yoskowitz

There is growing demand for information regarding the impacts of decisions on ecosystem services and human benefits. There remains a substantial gap between ecosystem services research and the information required to support decisions. Research often provides models and tools that do not fully link social and ecological systems; that are too complex, specialized, and costly to use; and that are targeted to outcomes that differ from those needed by decision makers. Decision makers require cost-effective, straightforward, transferable, scalable, meaningful, and defensible methods that can be readily understood. This article in the journal Ecosystem Services provides illustrative examples of the gaps between research and practice and describes how researchers can make their work relevant to decision makers by using benefit relevant indicators (BRIs) and by choosing models appropriate for particular decision contexts. 

Measuring Ecosystem Services: Guidance on Developing Ecosystem Service Indicators

By Brown, C., Reyers, B., Ingwall-King, L., Mapendembe, A., Nel, J., O'Farrell, P., Dixon, M. & Bowles-Newark, N. J.

These guidelines have been produced to support the development of ecosystem service indicators at the national and regional level for uses in reporting, assessments, policy making, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management, environmental management, development planning and education. The guidance contains four key sections: 1. Introduction to ecosystem service indicators, 2. Steps in developing ecosystem service idicators, 3. Mainstreaming ecosystem service indicators, 4. Ecosystem indicators developed and piloted in South Africa.

Ecosystem Services: Towards Integrated Marine Infrastructure Project Assessment

By Annelies Boerema, Katrien Van der Biest, and Patrick Meire

To enable the design of more sustainable dredging and marine infrastructure works and their efficient and safe implementation and realization in environmentally sensitive areas, the concept of ecosystem services has become increasingly important as a tool for integral evaluation of project effects (whether benefits or impacts) and achieving broad public support. Within an ecosystem service assessment, the main targets of the projects and a wide variety of additional effects on nature and society are identified in this report, quantified and expressed in monetary terms.

Identifying and Assessing the Application of Ecosystem Services Approaches in Environmental Policies and Decision Making

By Joke Van Wensem, Peter Calow, Annik Dollacker, Lorraine Maltby, Lydia Olander, Magnus Tuvendal, and George Van Houtven

This article in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management describes three criteria that can be used to identify whether and to what extent ecosystem services approaches are being applied in decision making. Case studies examine whether using them makes a difference in the decision-making process, the decisions, or the outcomes of those decisions.

Total Economic Valuation of the National Park Service Lands and Programs: Results of a Survey of the American Public

By Michelle Haefele, John Loomis, and Linda J. Bilmes

This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive estimate of the total economic value of the National Parks Service. The estimate covers administered lands, waters, and historic sites as well as National Parks Service programs, which include protection of natural landmarks and historic sites, partnerships with local communities, recreational activities and educational programs.

Making Decisions for Managing Ecosystem Services
By Maria Jose Martinez-Harms, Brett A. Bryan, Patricia Balvanera, Elizabeth A. Law, Jonathan R. Rhodes, Hugh P. Possingham, Kerrie A. Wilson

This report suggests five core steps for making management decisions for ecosystem services: identification of the problem and its social–ecological context; specification of objectives and associated performance measures; defining alternative management actions and evaluating the consequences of these actions; assessment of trade offs and prioritization of alternative management actions; and making management decisions.

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services Informing Decisions: From Promise to Practice
By Anne D. Guerry, Stephen Polasky, Jane Lubchenco, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Gretchen C. Dailyg, Robert Griffin, Mary Ruckelshaus, Ian J. Bateman, Anantha Duraiappah, Thomas Elmqvist, Marcus W. Feldman, Carl Folke, Jon Hoekstra, Peter M. Kareiva, Bonnie L. Keeler, Shuzhuo Li, Emily McKenzie, Zhiyun Ouyang, Belinda Reyers, Taylor H. Ricketts, Johan Rockström, Heather Tallis, and Bhaskar Vira.

This article explores why ecosystem service information has yet to fundamentally change decision-making and suggests a strategy for increasing its integration into decision processes in the future.This article is part of the special series of PNAS 100th anniversary articles to commemorate the exceptional research published in PNAS over the last century and to promote exceptional science looking to the century ahead.

Setting the Bar: Standards for Ecosystem Services
By Stephen Polasky, Heather Tallis, and Belinda Reyers

This article discusses the issues related to the lack of standards that define terminology, acceptable data and methods, and reporting requirements for using ecosystem service information and suggests ways this could be addressed.This article is part of the special series of PNAS 100th anniversary articles to commemorate the exceptional research published in PNAS over the last century and to promote exceptional science looking to the century ahead.

Nature as Capital: Advancing and Incorporating Ecosystem Services in United States Federal Policies and Programs
By Mark Schaefer, Erica Goldman, Ann M. Bartuska, Ariana Sutton-Grier, and Jane Lubchenco

This article discusses the work that many federal agencies have done so far to begin incorporating ecosystem service information into their decision-making processes and what may be necessary to increase this activity in the future. This article is part of the special series of PNAS 100th anniversary articles to commemorate the exceptional research published in PNAS over the last century and to promote exceptional science looking to the century ahead.

Nature as Capital PNAS 100th Anniversary Special Feature

These articles are part of the special series of PNAS 100th anniversary articles to commemorate the exceptional research published in PNAS over the last century and to promote exceptional science looking to the century ahead.

Ecological EconomicsEcosystem Services Science, Practice, and Policy: Perspectivies from ACES, A Community on Ecosystem Services
Edited by Carl Shapiro, Greg Arthaud, Frank Casey, and Dianna Hogan

Issue focuses on ecosystem services science, practice, and policy with perspectivies fromA Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES).

PNAS: Ecosystem Services Special Feature

Articles featured include: An ecosystem services framework to support both practical conservation and economic development; Ecological and socioeconomic effects of China's policies for ecosystem services; An operational model for mainstreaming ecosystem services for implementation; and Global mapping of ecosystem services and conservation priorities.

Ecosystem Services and Resource Management: Institutional Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities in the Public Sector
By Lynn Scarlett and James Boyd

Despite a growing interest in ecosystem services and their incorporation into public-sector decisions and transactions, a number of institutional challenges complicate these efforts. Nonetheless, many agencies have flexibility to incorporate ecosystem services assessments into their planning, use them to inform spending choices, and develop markets based on ecosystem services concepts. Challenges are, thus, more instrumental and practical rather than legal and structural.

Best Practices for Integrating Ecosystem Services into Federal Decision Making
By Lydia Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, Jimmy Kagan, Lynn Maguire, Steve Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer

In 2015, NESP brought together a number of acknowledged academic experts to build upon the methods outlined in the FRMES guidebook and identify best practices. The resulting report outlines recommendations for best practices specific to ecosystem services assessment methods.

The Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook
By the National Ecosystem Services Partnership

NESP collaborated with a number of federal agencies to create this online resource for integrating the ecosystem services concept into decision-making processes. The guidebook examines how federal agencies are exploring or applying this concept and provides a framework and methodology to enhance the consistency and credibility of the concept's use.

Coastal Capital: Ecosystem Valuation for Decision Making in the Caribbean
By Richard Waite, Lauretta Burke, Erin Gray, Pieter van Beukering, Luke Brander, Emily McKenzie, Linwood Pendleton, Peter Schuhmann and Emma Tompkins

Building on the World Resources Institute’s Coastal Capital series started in 2005, this guidebook was developed for economic valuation practitioners conducting coastal ecosystem valuation to inform real-world decisions. It leads practitioners through the scoping, analysis, and outreach phases of a valuation effort, using best practices from recent reviews of previous coastal valuation studies in the Caribbean region.

Ecosystem Services: A Guide for Decision Makers
By Janet Ranganathan, Karen Bennett, Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne, Nicolas Lucas, Frances Irwin, Monika Zurek and Neville Ash and Paul West

This guide, produced by World Resources Institute and its partners, was developed to aid the public sector in accounting for ecosystem services in economic and social strategies. The guide provides examples and methods to improve the success of projects, plans, and policies by utilizing an ecosystem services approach. 

Restoring Nature's Capital: An Action Agenda to Sustain Ecosystem Services
By Janet Ranganathan and Frances Irwin

Using the stark account of the mismanagement of ecosystem services detailed in the 2001 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as a backdrop, this World Resources Institute report seeks to answer the question of what must be done today to ensure that ecosystems meet the needs of present and future generations. It proposes an action agenda for business, governments, and civil society to reverse ecosystem degradation.

The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review: Guidelines for Identifying Business Risks & Opportunities Arising from Ecosystem Change
By Craig Hanson, Janet Ranganathan, Charles Iceland and John Finisdore

The World Resources Institute developed the Ecosystem Services Review (ESR) in collaboration with the Meridian Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in 2008, and published Version 2.0 in 2012. This version has new decision support tools for companies trying to better understand and capitalize on the specific business value they receive from ecosystem services. The ESR provides a structured methodology to help managers develop strategies to manage risks and opportunities that arise from their company’s dependence on an ecosystem.

Weaving Ecosystem Services into Impact Assessment: A Step-by-Step Method
By Florence Landsberg, Mercedes Stickler, Norbert Henninger, Jo Treweek and Orlando Venn

This World Resources Institute report provides six steps to address project impacts and dependencies on ecosystem services as part of the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) process. These steps build on assessments routinely conducted by social and environmental practitioners to better reflect the interdependence between project, ecosystems, ecosystem services, and people. This condensed version, tailored to a broader audience, is abbreviated from a longer report that provides detailed, technical instructions for ESIA practitioners.

Revaluing Ecosystems: A special edition of the Economist magazine

This special edition of The Economist features provocative articles from recent editions of the magazine to spark dialogue among the participants brought together by the World Resources Institute, the Forum for the Future, the Economist Intelligence Unit, and the Rockefeller Foundation at the Foundation’s Bellagio Center in November 2013. The participants are among the world’s leading actors in industry, government, civil society and the academy, coming together to discuss major trends that will shape human interactions with the environment.

Ecosystem Services: Quantification, Policy, Applications, and Current Federal Capabilities
By Lynn Scarlett and James Boyd

This study describes existing federal policies that permit or promote ecosystem services analysis, management, investments and markets. The survey discusses: current programs that stimulate or support the measurement of ecoystem services, exisitng federal drivers of ecosystem services analysis, and programs that stimulate investment in ecosystem services. Understanding existing capacity is important to federal and other leaders who see opportunities for environmental policy innovations—such as payments, markets, and management practices—based on ecological wealth and services.

Ecosystem Services Seminar Series

In 2011, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's Environmental Conservation Program assembled a small group of thought leaders and practitioners to increase awareness, facilitate the exchange of information and generate vibrant conversation to transform ecosystem services theory into tangible action. Lydia Olander, director of the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, was among the presenters.

Ecosystem Services Valuation to Support Decision Making on Public Lands: A Case Study of the San Pedro Watershed, Arizona 
By Kenneth J. Bagstad, Darrius Semmens, Rob Winthrop, Delilah Jaworski and Joel Larson

This report details the findings of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey Ecosystem Services Valuation Pilot Study. This project evaluated alternative methods and tools that quantify and value ecosystem services, and it assessed the tools' readiness for use in the Bureau of Land Management's decision making process. 

Stacking Ecosystem Services Payments: Risks and Solutions
by Lydia Olander and David Cooley

This article in Environmental Law Reporter discusses questions about how landowners can receive multiple payments for the ecosystem services they provide from the same parcel, a practice known as stacking. Stacking can provide multiple revenue streams for landowners and encourage them to manage their lands for multiple ecosystem services. However, if not well-managed, it may also lead to a net loss of services.

Stacking Opportunities and Risks in Environmental Credit Markets
by Jessica Fox, Royal C. Gardner, and Todd Maki

This article in Environmental Law Reporter discusses the critical need to establish coordinated policies and regulations to ensure that environmental mitigation markets result in real, verified, and additional mitigation, especially when credit stacking is involved.

PCAST Executive Report - Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy

This executive report from The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology's (PCAST) Working Group on Biodiversity Preservation and Ecosystem Sustainability addresses the needs and opportunities of governments – and especially the U.S. Federal government – to fulfill more effectively their responsibility in relation to the protection of environmental capital and ecosystem services. PCAST's recommendations involve a three-pronged effort encompassing ways to make better use of existing knowledge, to support the generation of essential new knowledge, and to expand the use of informatics.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Released in 2005, this report examines the state of the world’s ecosystems and ecosystem services, representing the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide. The report evaluates, summarizes, interprets, and communicates existing information regarding ecosystem change and human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of these ecosystems.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) was created at a meeting of the G8+5 in 2007. These nations decided there was a need to better understand the economic benefits of biodiversity conservation. The aim of TEEB is to provide a bridge between the multi-disciplinary science of biodiversity and the arena of international and national policy as well as local government and business practices. It is delivered through a series of reports addressing the needs of major stakeholders such as national and local decision makers, businesses, and the wider public.

The Bridgespan Group:  The State of Ecosystem Services
by Bob Searle and Serita Cox

Funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Bridgespan group undertook a project to help provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of ecosystem services and its potential for impact in environmental conservation. This Report combines interviews, literature reviews, and case studies to help provide a map of the field and to facilitate learning.

Oregon Senate Bill 513 Ecosystem Services and Markets: Report from the Oregon Sustainability Board to the 2011 Legislative Assembly
by Tom Byler, Renee Davis-Born, Sally Duncan, Daniel Grant, Peter Harkema, Debra Nudelman, and Sara Vickerman

This report was prepared by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) on behalf of the Oregon Sustainability Board. With input from the Ecosystem Services Market Working Group and its ad hoc advisory group, the report offers recommendations for creating successful ecosystem marketplaces. Due in part to the passage of this bill, Oregon has become a national leader in creating a framework for markets for ecosystem services to efficiently maintain ecological benefits, encourage environmental restoration, and sustain local economies.

Payments for ecosystem services:  some nuts and bolts
by Sven Wunder

This paper lays out the basic information for Payments of Ecosystem Services (PES) for a non-technical audience. This assessment combines literature reviews and field observations from research to demystify the topic of PES. It does this by starting with a simple and coherent definition of the term, further identifying other key terms and providing practical how-to hints for PES design and evaluation.

World Resources Institute:  Definitions of Ecosystem Services

This fact sheet synthesizes definitions and examples of ecosystem services from several papers and reports.

Farm of the Future

The USDA Office of Environmental Markets has published a series of case studies to show how markets and payments for ecosystem services can benefit farmers and landowners. These landowners participate in a variety of ecosystem markets and payment programs, including wetland and biodiversity banking and the voluntary carbon market, to supplement traditional income from crops and livestock. 

Innovations in Market-based Watershed Conservation in the United States
by Terhi Majanen, Rachel Friedman, and Jeffrey C. Milder

EcoAgriculture Partners prepared this report for the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc. and USDA Office of Environmental Markets, which describes a variety of payments for watershed services projects and programs across the United States.


If you would like to suggest a paper or report for us to include in this list, please contact nesp@duke.edu.