Terms used in the theory


Referring to the physical (non-living) environment, for example, temperature, moisture and light, or natural mineral substances.

Adaptive Management

A systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of previously employed policies and practices. In active adaptive management, management is treated as a deliberate experiment for purposes of learning and achieving a desired goal.

Additional (system) Inputs

Non-ecosystem-based anthropogenic contributions to ecosystem services, referring for example to fertiliser, energy, pesticide, technique, labour or knowledge use in human- influenced land use systems.


Planting of forests on land that has historically not contained forests (as opposed to Reforestation).

Agro- biodiversity (or agricultural biodiversity)

The biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems (including domestic animals and cultivated plants, e.g. crop plants).


An ecosystem, in which usually domesticated plants and animals and other life forms are managed for the production of food, fibre and other materials that support human life while often also providing non-material benefits. Besides providing ecosystem services, agro- ecosystems are also users of other ecosystem services (e.g. nutrient regulation, erosion control, water supply, natural pest control).

Alien Species

A plant or animal whose distribution is outside its natural range; alien species are frequently introduced by human activity.

Analytical Framework

An analytical framework consists of a conceptual framework complemented with the main definitions and classifications needed for its operational use.


The analysis and review of information derived from research for the purpose of helping someone in a position of responsibility to evaluate possible actions or think about a problem. Assessment means assembling, summarising, organising, interpreting, and possibly reconciling pieces of existing knowledge and communicating them so that they are relevant and helpful to an intelligent but inexpert decision-maker.

Basic Spatial Unit (BSU)

The smallest spatial unit of a mapping project for which the elements of its conceptual framework are estimated. The typical size of BSUs is called spatial resolution.

Benefit Transfer

Estimates economic values by transferring existing benefit estimates from studies already completed for another location or issue.


Positive change in wellbeing from the fulfilment of needs and wants.


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.


This is energy that is derived from biological matter (i.e. from plants and animals) but which as not undergone a geological process (cf. fossil fuels). Carriers of bioenergy may be solid (e.g.wood, straw), liquid (e.g.biodiesel, bioethanol) or gaseous (e.g.methane)


A fuel that contains energy from geologically recent carbon fixation, produced from living organisms, usually plants.

Biologically  Valuable  Grassland

Term  used within  the  context  of  the  Rural  Development  Programme of Latvia, which includes the EU protected grassland  habitats  (all  semi-natural  grasslands  in  Latvia) and grassland habitats significant for birds.


The mass of tissues in living organisms in a population, ecosystem, or spatial unit derived by the fixation of energy though organic processes.

Biophysical Structure

The architecture of an ecosystem as a result of the interaction between the abiotic, physical environment and the biotic communities, in particular vegetation.

Biophysical Valuation

A method that derives values from measurements of the physical costs (e.g., in terms of labour, surface requirements, energy and material inputs) of producing a given good or service.


Living or recently living, used here to refer to the biological components of ecosystems, that is, plants, animals, soil microorganisms, leaf litter and dead wood.


(for an ecosystem service): The ability of a given ecosystem to generate a specific ecosystem service in a sustainable way.

Carbon Sequestration

The process of increasing the carbon content of a reservoir other than the atmosphere.

Community (Ecological)

An assemblage of species occurring in the same space or time, often linked by biotic interactions such as competition or predation.

Community (Human, Local)

A group of people who have something in common. A local community is a fairly small group of people who share a common place of residence and a set of institutions based on this fact, but the word ‘community’ is also used to refer to larger collections of people who have something else in common (e.g., national community, donor community).

Conceptual Model

Conceptual models of ecosystem services describe systemic interactions between nature and people. They are, for instance, illustrations of ecosystem structures and functions, or impact of drivers and pressures on state variables. Conceptual models can also describe complexity of various approaches in the quantification of ecosystem services.


The protections, improvement and sustainable use of natural resources for present and future generations.

Corporate Ecosystem Service Review

A structured methodology that helps private sector decision-makers to develop strategies to manage business risks and opportunities arising from their company’s dependence and impact on ecosystems.

Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA)

An evaluation method that involves summing up the value of the costs and benefits of an investment/policy/project and comparing options in terms of their net benefits (the extent to which benefits exceed costs).

Cost- Effectiveness Analysis (CEA)

An evaluation method that involves summing up the value of the costs and benefits of an investment/policy/project and comparing options in terms of their net benefits (the extent to which benefits exceed costs).

Cost- Effectiveness Analysis (CEA)

An evaluation method that involves identifying the least cost option that achieves a specified goal.

Cultural Landscape

Cultural properties (that) represent the combined works of nature and of man.

Cultural Ecosystem Service (CES)

All the non-material, and normally non- consumptive, outputs of ecosystems that affect physical and mental states of people. CES are primarily regarded as the physical settings, locations or situations that give rise to changes in the physical or mental states of people, and whose character are fundamentally dependent on living processes; they can involve individual species, habitats and whole ecosystems. The settings can be semi-natural as well as natural settings (i.e. can include cultural landscapes) providing they are dependent on in situ living processes. In CICES, a distinction between settings that support interactions that are used for physical activities such as hiking and angling, and intellectual or mental interactions involving analytical, symbolic and representational activities is made. Spiritual and religious settings are also recognised. The classification also covers the ‘existence’ and ‘bequest’ constructs that may arise from people’s beliefs or understandings.


A person, group or an organisation that has the authority or ability to decide about actions of interest.

Degradation of an Ecosystem Service

Reduction in the contribution that an ecosystem service, or bundles of services, makes to human well-being as a result of loss of a stock of natural capital or its condition (capacity) to generate service output.

Deliberative Assessment

Deliberative methods are an umbrella term for various tools and techniques engaging and empowering non-scientist participants. These methods ask stakeholders and citizens to form their preferences to ecosystem services together in a transparent way through an open discourse.

Direct Measurement (of ES)

A measurement of a state, a quantity or a process from ecosystem observations, monitoring, surveys or questionnaires which cover the entire study area in a representative manner.

Direct Use Value (of Ecosystems)

The economic or social value of the goods or benefits derived from the services provided by an ecosystem that are used directly by an agent. These include consumptive uses (e.g., harvesting goods) and non-consumptive uses (e.g., enjoyment of scenic beauty). Agents are often physically present in an ecosystem to receive direct use value

Drivers of Change [Direct & Indirect]

Any natural or human-induced factor that directly or indirectly causes a change in an ecosystem. A direct driver of change unequivocally influences ecosystem processes and can therefore be identified and measured to differing degrees of accuracy, an indirect driver of change operates by altering the level or rate of change of 1 or more direct drivers.

Ecological Process

An interaction among organisms, and/or their abiotic environment.

Economic Valuation

The process of expressing a value for a particular good or service in a certain context (e.g., of decision-making) in monetary terms.


[in a general context] Dynamic complex of plant, animal, and microorganisms communities and their non-living environment inter-acting as a functional unit. Humans may be an integral part of an ecosystem, although ‘socio-ecological system’ is sometimes used to denote situations in which people play a significant role, or where the character of the ecosystem is heavily influenced by human action.

[in the MAES context] An ecosystem type

Ecosystem Accounting

Ecosystem accounting is a coherent and integrated approach to the measurement of ecosystem assets and the flows of services from them into economic and other human activity.

Ecosystem Approach

A strategy for the integrated management of land, water, and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use. An ecosystem approach is based on the application of appropriate scientific methods focused on levels of biological organisation, which encompass the essential structure, processes, functions, and interactions among organisms and their environment. It recognises that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of many ecosystems.

Ecosystem Assessment

A social process through which the findings of science concerning the causes of ecosystem change, their consequences for human well- being, and management and policy options are brought to bear on the needs of decision-makers.

Ecosystem Characteristic

Key attributes of an ecosystem unit describing its components, structure, processes, and functionality, frequently closely related to biodiversity. The term characteristics is intended to be able to encompass all of the various perspectives taken to describe an ecosystem.

Ecosystem Condition

1.   The physical, chemical and biological condition or quality of an ecosystem at a particular point in time (definition used in MAES).

2.   The overall quality of an ecosystem unit, in terms of its main characteristics underpinning its capacity to generate ecosystem services.

3.   The capacity of an ecosystem to yield services, relative to its potential capacity.

Ecosystem Degradation

A persistent reduction in the condition of an ecosystem.

Ecosystem Function

Subset of the interactions between biophysical structures, biodiversity and ecosystem processes that underpin the capacity of an ecosystem to provide ecosystem services. (See also ecosystem capacity and ecosystem condition).

Ecosystem Functioning

The operating of an ecosystem. Very often, there is a normative component involved, insofar as ecosystem functioning not only refers to (any) functioning/performance of the system but to ‘proper functioning’ and thus implies a normative choice on what is considered as a properly functioning ecosystem (operating within certain limits).

Ecosystem Health

A state of nature (whether managed or pristine) that is characterized by systems integrity: that is, a healthy nature is a largely self-organized system.

Ecosystem Integrity

Integrity is often defined as an environmental condition that exhibits little or no human influence, maintaining the structure, function, and species composition present, prior to, and independent of human intervention [i.e., integrity is closely associated with ideas of naturalness, particularly the notion of pristine wilderness (Angermeier & Karr 1994, Callicott et al. 1999)].

Ecosystem Management

A direct and conscious intervention (or agreement to refrain from interventions) in an ecosystem by people that is intended to change its structure or functioning for some benefit.

Ecosystem Process

Any change or reaction, which occurs within ecosystems, physical, chemical or biological. Ecosystem processes include decomposition, production, nutrient cycling, and fluxes of nutrients and energy.

Ecosystem Properties

Attributes which characterize an ecosystem, such as its size, biodiversity, stability, degree of organization, as well as its functions and processes (i.e., the internal exchanges of materials, energy and information among different pools).

Ecosystem Services

1. The contributions of ecosystems to benefits obtained in economic, social, cultural and other human activity.

2. The contributions of ecosystem structure and function (in combination with other inputs) to human well-being

(Comment: The concepts of ‘ecosystem goods and services’, ‘final ecosystem services’, and ‘nature’s contributions to people’ are considered to be synonymous with ES in the MAES context.)

Ecosystem Service Accounting

A structured way of measuring the economic significance of nature that is consistent with existing macro-economic accounts. Ecosystem              service accounting involves organising information about natural capital stocks and ecosystem service flows, so that the contributions that ecosystems make to human well-being can be understood by decision makers and any changes tracked over time. Accounts can be organised in either physical or monetary terms.

Ecosystem Service Assessment

An appraisal of the status and trends in the provision of ecosystem services in a specified geographic area. The general aim of an ecosystem service assessment is to highlight and quantify the importance of ecosystem services to society. Ecosystem service assessments are multidisciplinary in nature, applying and combining biophysical, social and economic methods.

Ecosystem Service Bundle (supply side)

A set of associated ecosystem services that are linked to a given ecosystem and that usually appear together repeatedly in time and space.

Ecosystem Service Bundle (demand side)

A set of associated ecosystem services that are linked to a given ecosystem and that usually appear together repeatedly in time and space.

Ecosystem Service Classification

Ecosystem service classification: A classification of ecosystem services according to the ecological processes they rely on, and the benefits they contribute to.

Ecosystem Service Demand

The need for specific ecosystem services by society, particular stakeholder groups or individuals. It depends on several factors such as culturally-dependent desires and needs, availability of alternatives, or means to fulfil these needs. It also covers preferences for specific attributes of a service and relates to risk awareness.

Ecosystem Service Flow

The amount of an ecosystem service that is actually mobilized in a specific area and time.

Ecosystem Service Mapping

The process of creating a cartographic representation of (quantified) ecosystem service indicators in geographic space and time.

Ecosystem Service Model

A scientific (usually computer-based) for quantifying various socio-ecological indicators of an ecosystem service.

Ecosystem Service Potential

This describes the natural contributions to ES generation. It measures the amount of ES that can be provided or used in a sustainable way in a certain region. This potential should be assessed over a sufficiently long period of time.

Ecosystem Service Provider

The ecosystems, component populations, communities, functional groups, etc. as well as abiotic components such as habitat type, that are the main contributors to ES output.

Ecosystem Service Supply

The provision of a service by a particular ecosystem, irrespective of its actual use. It can be determined for a specified period of time (such as a year) in the present, past or future.

Ecosystem State

The physical, chemical and biological condition of an ecosystem at a particular point of time.

Ecosystem Status

Ecosystem condition defined among several well- defined categories with a legal status. It is usually measured against time and can be compared to agreed policy targets, e.g. in EU environmental directives (e.g. Habitats Directive, Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive), e.g. “conservation status”.

Ecosystem Structure

A static characteristic of an ecosystem that is measured as a stock or volume of material or energy, or the composition and distribution of biophysical elements. Examples include standing crop, leaf area, % ground cover, species composition (cf. ecosystem process).

Ecosystem Typology

A classification of ecosystem units according to their relevant ecosystem characteristics, usually linked to specific objectives and spatial scales.

Ecosystem Unit

An instance of an ecosystem type within a basic spatial unit. In cases when the spatial resolution is relatively fine, it is a meaningful simplification to assume that each basic spatial unit is occupied by just a single ecosystem unit, in which case these two concepts (BSU, EcU) will coincide.

Environmental Policy Integration

The incorporation of environmental objectives into all stages of policy making in non- environmental policy sectors, with a specific recognition of this goal as a guiding principle for the planning and execution of policy, accompanied by an attempt to aggregate presumed environmental consequences into an overall evaluation of policy, and a commitment to minimize contradictions between environmental and sectoral policies by giving principled priority to the former over the latter.


Occurs if institutions or technologies exist that prevent other individuals or groups from using a good or service.

Existence Value

The value that individuals place on knowing that a resource exists, even if they never use that resource (also sometimes known as conservation value or passive use value).

Explorative/Exploratory Scenario

The projection of the state and condition of an ecosystem into the future, based on the anticipated impacts of the direct and indirect drivers of change, designed to help people understand the consequences of different sets of assumptions. See ‘normative scenarios’.


A projection, extension, or expansion of information from what is known into an area not known or experienced, providing conjectural knowledge of the unknown area.


A structure that includes the relationship amongst a set of assumptions, concepts, and practices that establish an approach for accomplishing a stated objective or objectives.

Functional Diversity

The value, range, and relative abundance of traits present in the organisms in an ecological community.

Functional Group

A collection of organisms with similar functional trait attributes. Some authors use ‘Functional Type’ in the same way. Groups can be associated with similar responses to pressures and/or effects on ecosystem processes. A functional group is often referred to as a guild, especially when referring to animals, e.g. the feeding types of aquatic organisms having the same function within the trophic chain, e.g. the group (guild) of shredders or grazers.

Functional Traits

A feature of an organism that has demonstrable links to the organism’s function. Those characteristics (e.g. morphological, physiological etc.) of organisms that either are related to the effect of organisms on community and ecosystem processes or their response to these processes and the physical environment.

Geographic Information System (GIS)

A computer-based system for the Input, Management, Analysis and Presentation (IMAP) of spatially referenced data.


The objects from ecosystems that people value through experience, use or consumption, whether that value is expressed in economic, social or personal terms. Note that the use of this term here goes well beyond a narrow definition of goods simply as physical items bought and sold in markets, and includes objects that have no market price (e.g. outdoor recreation). Comment: The term is synonymous with benefit (as proposed by the UK NEA), & not with service (as propo- sed by MA).


The process of formulating decisions and guiding the behaviour of humans, groups and organisa- tions in formally, often hierarchically organised decision-making systems or in networks that cross decision-making levels & sector boundaries.

Green Infrastructure (GI)

A strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services (ES). It incorporates green spaces (or blue if aquatic ecosystems are concerned) and other physical features in terrestrial (including coastal) and marine areas. On land, GI is present in rural and urban settings.

Group / Participatory Valuation

A stated preference method that asks groups of stakeholders to state their willingness to pay for specified changes in the provision of ES through group discussion.


1. [in a general context]: The physical location or type of environment in which an organism or biological population lives or occurs, defined by the sum of the abiotic and biotic factors of the environment, whether natural or modified, which are essential to the life and reproduction of the species.

2. [in a MAES context]: A synonym for ‘ecosystem type’. [Note the Council of Europe definition is more specific: the habitat of a species, or population of a species, is the sum of the abiotic and biotic factors of the environment, whether natural or modified, which are essential to the life and reproduction of the species within its natural geographic range.]

Health (Human)

A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The health of a whole community or population is reflected in measurements of disease incidence and prevalence, age-specific death rates, and life expectancy.

Heritage [Cultural and Natural]

Our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Physical objects produced and used by past generations, ranging from small-scale domestic utensils to large-scale buildings, monuments, places and landscapes, may become valued as cultural heritage by their descendants. Equally, symbolic products of human creativity and imagination such as music, visual arts, poetry and prose, knowledge and know-how contribute to a society or group’s understanding of its cultural heritage.

Hydromorphic soils

Formed under conditions of poor drainage in marshes, swamps, seepage areas or flats.


Areas that provide large components of particular services in a comparably small area/spot (opposite to ES coldspots).

Human Inputs

Encompass all anthropogenic contributions to ES generation such as land use and management (including system inputs such as energy, water, fertiliser, pesticides, labour, technology, knowledge), human pressures on the system (e.g. eutrophication, biodiversity loss) and protection measures that modify ecosystems and ES supply.

Human Well- Being

A state that is intrinsically (and not just instrumentally) valuable or good for a person or a societal group, comprising access to basic materials for a good life, health, security, good physical and mental state, and good social relations.


Negative or positive effect on individuals, society and/or environmental resources resulting from environmental change.


An indicator is a number or qualitative descriptor generated with a well-defined method which reflects a phenomenon of interest (the indicandum). Indicators are frequently used by policy-makers to set environmental goals and evaluate their fulfilment.

Integrated Modelling Framework

This group includes modelling tools designed specifically for ecosystem services modelling and mapping that can assess trade-offs and scenarios for multiple services. They integrate various methods for different services which are usually organized in modules each of them designed for particular service. The integrated modelling frameworks utilize GIS software as a mean to operate with spatial data and produce maps. They can work as extensions of commercial or open-source software packages, stand-alone tools or web-based application. They are designed help researchers in ES assessment and enable decision makers to assess quantified trade-offs associated with alternative management choices and to identify areas where investment in natural capital can enhance human development and conservation.


The level of integration within existing ecosystem assessments varies; but usually falls within i) combining, ii) interpreting and iii) communicating knowledge from diverse disciplines. For example, integration may focus on biophysical elements; integrating ecosystem condition with the services that the ecosystem provides (e.g. MAES assess- ment framework). Others have extended inte- gration to include socioeconomic information and links to human well-being (e.g. MA) and indigenous and local knowledge (e.g. IPBES Assessments). A number of assessment practitioner may use the word integration to refer to the inclusion of stake-holders within the assessment process and the overall governance structure that they are implementing.


Intensification of land use aims at raising ecosystem service outputs (e.g. in agriculture raising crop yields per unit area and per unit time), in other words to increase productivity. To achieve this goal, usually the inputs (see term “additional inputs”) are increased. To raise crop yields, a broad range of methods is being applied, often in combinations, including breeding, irrigation, organic and inorganic fertilization, green manure and cover crops, pest and weed management, multi-cropping, crop rotation and the reduction of fallow periods.

Intermediate Ecosystem Service

An ecological function or process not used directly by a beneficiary, but which underpins those final ecosystem services which are used directly. Note: ‘Intermediate ES’ should not be considered a subtype of ‘ecosystem services’: in fact, these are mutually exclusive categories, and this distinction is sometimes emphasized by using the term ‘final ES’ as a synonym of ES. Nevertheless, the ‘boundary’ between intermediate and final ecosystem services (sometimes called ‘production boundary’) is context dependent and should be set clearly and consistently for any ecosystem assessment work. This means that there can be contexts in which an ‘intermediate ES’ would actually be a (final) service through a direct use by a certain beneficiary or through the avoidance of societal costs if the service is degraded.

Intrinsic Value

Intrinsic value is the value something has independent of any interests attached to it by an observer or potential user. This does not necessarily mean that such values are independent of a valuer (i.e. values which exist ‘as such’), they may also require a (human) valuer (but this is a matter of disagreement among philosophers).

Land Cover (LC)

The physical coverage of land usually expressed in terms of vegetation cover or lack of it. Related to, but not synonymous with, land use.

Land parcel identification system (LPIS)

GIS database, which contains all agricultural areas that are eligible for a direct payment under the Common Agricultural Policy. It is used to cross – check the parcels for which payments have been claimed by the farmer. The land parcel   identification system ensures that the farmer is paid for the correct area and that overpayment is avoided.


An area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors. The term “landscape” is thus defined as a zone or area as perceived by local people or visitors, whose visual features and character are the result of the action of natural and/or cultural factors. Recognition is given to the fact that landscapes evolve through time and are the result of natural and human activities. Landscape should be considered as a whole – natural and cultural components are taken together, not separately.

Landscape Metrics

Landscape metrics capture composition and configuration of landscape structure in mathematical terms. Not only spatial but also temporal properties of processes can be characterised by a quantifying landscape pattern.

Land Use (LU)

The human use of a piece of land for a certain purpose such as irrigated agriculture or recreation. Influenced by, but not synonymous with, land cover.

Land Quality Evaluation

Land evaluation in grades, taking into account the productivity of the soil. (note: In Latvia land quality is assessed taking into account soil type, soil texture class and land improvement).


Graphical representation of a procedure, process, structure, or system that depicts arrangement of and relationships among its different components, and traces flows of energy, goods, information, materials, money, personnel, etc.


The action of making the consequence of an impact less severe.

Model (scientific)

A simplified representation of a complex system or process including elements that are considered to be essential parts of what is represented. Models aim to make it easier to understand and/or quantify by referring to existing and usually commonly accepted knowledge.

Monetary Valuation

The process whereby people express the importance or preference they have for the service or benefits that ecosystems provides in monetary terms. See ‘Economic valuation’.

Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA)

Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) is a decision-support method that help to systematically explore the pros and cons of different alternatives, by comparing them against a set of explicitly defined criteria. These criteria account for the most relevant aspects in a given decision-making process. Operationally, MCDA supports structuring decision problems, assessing the performance of alternatives across criteria, exploring trade-offs, formulating a decision and testing its robustness.


The characteristic of ecosystems to simultaneously perform multiple functions which may be able to provide a particular ES bundle or bundles.

Narrative assessment

Narrative methods aim to understand and describe the importance of nature and its benefits to people with their own words. By using narrative methods, we allow the research participants (residents of a certain place, users of a certain resource, or stakeholders of an issue) to articulate the plural and heterogeneous values of ecosystem services through their own stories and direct actions (both verbally and visually).

Natural Capital

The elements of nature that directly or indirectly produce value for people, including ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, minerals, air and oceans, as well as natural processes and functions. The term is often used synonymously with natural asset, but in general implies a specific component. Note: ecosystem capital and ecosystem assets are sometimes used to refer to the parts of nature that produce benefits for people.

Natural Capital Accounting

A way of organising information about natural capital so that the state and trends in natural assets can be documented and assessed in a systematic way by decision makers.

Nature-based Solutions

Living solutions inspired by, continuously supported by and using nature, which are designed to address various societal challenges in a resource‐efficient and adaptable manner and to provide simultaneously economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Natural Grassland

Grassland, the existence of which is completely ensured by natural conditions (precipitation, fire, wild herbivores, soil conditions) and no human activity (mowing or grazing) is required. This type of grassland most commonly occurs in steppe and savannah zones.

Net Primary Production

See ‘production, biological’.

Non-Monetary Valuation

The process whereby people express the importance or preference they have for the service or benefits that ecosystems provide in terms other than money. See monetary or economic valuation.

Organic soil

A soil in which the sum of the thicknesses of layers comprising organic soil materials is generally greater than the sum of the thicknesses of mineral layers.


The process by which concepts are made usable by decision makers.

Participatory Approach

Family of approaches and methods to enable people to share, enhance, and analyse their knowledge of life and conditions, to plan and to act, to monitor and evaluate.

Participatory GIS

Evaluates the spatial distribution of ecosystem services according to the perceptions and knowledge of stakeholders via workshops and/or surveys. PGIS allows for the participation of various stakeholders in the creation of an ES map in the identification of ES ‘hotspots’ on a map, and integrates their perceptions, knowledge and values in the final maps of ecosystem services.

Participatory Scenario Planning

Participatory scenario planning applies various tools and techniques (e.g. brainstorming or visioning exercises in workshops, often complemented with modelling) to develop plausible and internally consistent descriptions of alternative future options.

Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)

Conditional payments offered to providers (e.g., farmers or landowners) in exchange for employing management practices that enhance ES provision.

Permanent grassland

Natural (mainly steppe areas) or agricultural soils with grass cover not normally ploughed.

Phenomenological Models

The phenomenological models describe empirical relationships between biodiversity or ecosystem components and ecosystem services. They are based on the understanding that biological mechanisms underpinning ES supply.

Policy Maker

A person with the authority to influence or determine policies and practices at an international, national, regional or local level.

Population (Biological)

A group of organisms, all of the same species, which occupies a particular area (geographic population), is genetically distinct (genetic population) or fluctuates synchronously (demographic population).

Preference Assessment

Preference assessment is a direct and quantitative method to demonstrate the social importance of ecosystem services by analysing social motivations, perceptions, knowledge and associated values of ecosystem services demand or use.


Human induced process that alters the condition of ecosystems.

Process-based Models (includes: landscape function models)

Process-based models rely on the explicit representation of ecological and physical processes that determine the functioning of ecosystems. They provide functional means of plant and ecosystem processes that are universal rather than specific to one biome or region. One purpose of such models is to explore the impact of perturbations caused by climatic changes and anthropogenic activity on ecosystems and their biogeochemical feedbacks. Many process-based models allow the net effects of these processes to be estimated for the recent past and for future scenarios. In terms of ecosystem services, these types of models are most widely applied to quantify climate regulation, water supply from catchments, food provision but also in the wider frame of habitat characterisation.

Production (biological)

Rate of biomass produced by an ecosystem, generally expressed as biomass produced per unit of time per unit of surface or volume. Net primary productivity is defined as the energy fixed by plants minus their respiration.

Provisioning Ecosystem Services

Those material and energetic outputs from ecosystems that contribute to human well-being.

Regulating Ecosystem Services

All the ways in which ecosystems and living organisms can mediate or moderate the ambient environment so that human well-being is en- hanced. It therefore covers the degradation of wastes and toxic substances by exploiting living processes.


A measure of an (eco)system’s ability to recover and retain its structure and processes following an exogenous change or disturbance event. If a stress or disturbance does alter the ecosystem, then it should be able to bounce back quickly to resume its former ability to yield a service or utility rather than transform into a qualitatively different state that is con-trolled by a different set of processes. In order for ecosystem resilience to be defined, the ecosystem must have a degree of stability prior to the perturbation. Resilience relates to return to stability following a specified perturbation.


The process of actively managing an ecosystem unit in order to improve ecosystem condition.


The degree to which the use of one ecosystem service prevents other beneficiaries from using it. Non-rival ecosystem services in return provide benefits to one person that do not reduce the amount of benefits available for others.

Scale (spatial and temporal)

The physical dimensions, in either space or time, of phenomena or observations. Regarding temporal aspects of ES supply and demand, hot moments are equally as important as spatially relevant hotspots.

Scale (on a map)

Represents the ratio of the distance between two points on the map to the corresponding distance on the ground.


Plausible, but simplified descriptions of how the future may develop based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about key driving forces and relationships. Scenarios are    no predictions of what will happen, but ore projections on what might happen or could happen given certain assumptions about which there might be great uncertainty.


Access to resources, safety, and the ability to live in a predictable and controllable environment.

Seminatural Grassland

Grassland, the existence of which is supported by human agricultural activity (mowing or livestock grazing), but the environmental conditions and the composition of species is provided by natural processes.

Service- Benefitting Area (SBA)

Spatial unit to which an ecosystem service flow is delivered to beneficiaries. SBAs spatially delineate groups of people who knowingly or unknowingly benefit from the ecosystem service of interest

Service- Connecting Area (SCA)

Connecting space between non-adjacent ecosystem service-providing and service- benefiting areas. The properties of the connecting space influence the transfer of the benefit.

Service Providing Area (SPA)

Spatial unit within which an ecosystem service is provided. This area can include animal and plant populations, abiotic components as well as human actors.

Service- Providing Unit

see ‘Service Providing Area’.

Socio-cultural Valuation

The process whereby the perceived importance or preference people have for a specific element of the MAES framework is estimated in terms other than money. Note: Preferred over term ‘non- monetary valuation’.

Socio-Economic System

Our society (which includes institutions that manage ecosystems, users that use their services and stake-holders that influence ecosystems).

Social– Ecological System (or Socio- Ecological System)

Interwoven and interdependent ecological and social structures and their associated relationships.

Soil Degradation

Negative process often accelerated by human activities (improper soil use and cultivation practices, building areas) that leads to deterioration of soil properties and functions or destruction of soil as a whole, e.g. compaction, erosion, salinization.

Soil Erodibility (K-factor)

Expresses the susceptibility of a soil to erode.

Soil erosion

Soil erosion is the movement and transport of soil by various agents, particularly water, wind, and mass movement; hence climate is a key factor.

Soil Properties

Chemical, physical, or biological characteristics of soil which can indicate its level of function of ecosystem services.

Soil Productivity

The output of a specified plant or group of plants under a defined set of management practices.

Soil Sorption

Selective process, which occurs on soil particles smaller than 0.002mm (<2µm); these small particles have colloidal properties, are able to hold and exchange ions, water or gases.

Soil Texture

Numerical proportion (% by wt.) of sand, silt and clay in a soil. Sand, silt and clay content are estimated in the field, and/or quantitatively in the laboratory, and then placed within the texture triangle to determine soil texture class. Texture can be coarse (sand particles predominate), medium (silt particles predominate), or fine (clay particles predominate).

Spatial Proxy Methods

Spatial proxy methods are derived from indirect measurements which deliver a biophysical value in physical units, but this value needs further interpretation, certain assumptions or data processing, or it needs to be combined in a model with other sources of environmental information before it can be used to measure an ecosystem service. In many cases, variables that are collected through remote sensing qualify as indirect measurement. Examples for terrestrial ecosystems are land surface temperature, NDVI, land cover, water layers, leaf area index and primary production.

Species Diversity

Biodiversity at the species level, often combining aspects of species richness, their relative abundance, and their dissimilarity.

Species Richness

The number of species within a given sample, community, or area.


Any group, organisation or individual who can affect or is affected by the ecosystem’s services”.

State [of a social- ecological system]

Collection of variables that describe the overall physical condition of a social ecological system, including attributes of both ecosystem service providers and ecosystem service beneficiaries.

Statistical Models

Statistical models are mathematical models that measures the attributes of certain population using a representative sample as measuring the whole population is usually not possible. In statistical models ecosystem services are estimated based on explanatory variables such as soils, climate, etc., using a statistical relation.


A narrative description of a scenario, which highlights its main features and the relationships between the scenario’s driving forces and its main features.

Structure [of an Ecosystem, Habitat, Community]

The aggregate of elements of an entity in their relationships to each other. The component parts of an ecosystem; see ‘natural capital asset’ or ‘natural capital stock’.

Supporting Services

Ecological processes and functions that are necessary for the production of final ecosystem services. See also ‘intermediate services’ and ‘ecosystem functions’.

Sustainable Use of ES

Human use of an ecosystem so that it may yield a continuous benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.


A characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present and local population can be met without compromising the ability of future        generations or populations in other locations to meet their needs. Weak sustainability assumes that needs can be met by the substitution of different forms of capital (i.e. through trade-offs); strong sustainability posits that substitution of different forms of capital is seriously limited.


Ecosystem service synergies arise when multiple services are enhanced simultaneously.


A construct for a reporting unit at a level of aggregation generally above that which is applied to an ecosystem. Systems may include many ecosystems with varying degrees of inter-action and spatial connectivity, in addition to their associated social and economic components. Systems are not mutually exclusive and can over- lap both spatially and conceptually.

Threshold, ecological

A point at which an ecological system experiences a qualitative change, mostly in an abrupt and discontinuous way. In the context of OpenNESS ecological threshold and tipping points were used as synonyms. See also ‘regime shift’ and the distinction with ‘limit’.

Tiered Approach

A classification of available methods according to level of detail and complexity with the aim of providing advice on method choice. The provision and integration of different tiers enables ES assessments to use methods consistent with their needs and resources.

Time-use Assessment

This method estimates the value of ecosystem services by directly asking people how much time they are willing to invest (WTT) for a change in the quantity or quality of a given ecosystem service or conservation plan.

Total Economic Value (TEV)

A widely used framework to disaggregate the components of utilitarian value in monetary terms, including direct use value, indirect use value, option value, quasi-option value, and existence value.


Ecosystem service trade-offs arise from management choices made by humans. Such choices can change the type, magnitude, and relative mix of ES provided by an ecosystem. Trade-offs occur when the provision of one ES is reduced as a consequence of increased use of another ES. Note: In some cases, a trade- off may be an explicit choice, in others, trade- offs arise with- out awareness that they are taking place.

Travel Cost

A revealed preference method that estimates a demand function for recreational use of a natural area using data on the observed costs and frequency of travel to that destination.


An expression of the degree to which a condition or trend (e.g. of an ecosystem) is unknown. Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. It may have many types of sources, from quantifiable errors in the data to ambiguously defined terminology or uncertain projections of human behaviour. Uncertainty can therefore be represented by quantitative measures (e.g. a range of values calculated by various models) or by qualitative statements (e.g. reflecting the judgment of a team of experts).


Environmental condition linked to high population density, extent of land transformation, or a large energy flow from surrounding area.


The process whereby people express the importance or preference they have for the service or benefits that ecosystems provide. Importance Value can be expressed in monetary or non-monetary terms. See ‘monetary valuation’ and ‘non-monetary valuation’.


The contribution of an action or object to user- specified goals, objectives, or conditions. The worth, usefulness, importance of something. Thus, value can be measured by the size of the well-being improvement delivered to humans through the provision of good(s). In economics, value is always associated with trade-offs, i.e. something only has (economic) value if we are willing to give up something to get or enjoy it.

Value Transfer (Benefit Transfer)

The use of research results from existing primary studies at one or more sites or policy contexts (“study sites”) to predict welfare estimates or related information for other sites or policy contexts (“policy sites”).


The breakdown and changes in rocks and sediments at or near the Earth’s surface produced by biological, chemical, and physical agents or combinations of them.


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