An up-to-date list of indicators to measure Ecosystem Services

In order to provide a set of indicators supporting the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Service, the NOBEL partners have published a systematic review paper recently.

In this study, they performed an extensive systematic literature review aimed to complete a list of indicators that could be used as proxies to evaluate each one of the 83 ecosystem services described by the CICES classification (Fig 6). In the literature, they found peer-reviewed publications describing the implementation of 85 individual indicators used to evaluate different ecosystem services. Since most of those studies did not use the CICES classification, they homogenized the descriptions of the ecosystem services and the nomenclature of the matching indicators.

Given the increasing importance of ES and their assessments in policy-making, including intergovernmental processes such as IPBES (, there is a growing need to develop methods to adequately assess the potential of different ecosystems to deliver the services that are essential for humanity. So far, there has not been published in the literature any comprehensive set of indicators used in practice. Thus, they consider that the present study is a potentially
important contribution to that end since it provides an extensive list of indicators covering all ES described in the internationally-agreed CICES classification system. In particular, they believe that this work is highly relevant because the estimation of ES needs to be based on indicators that enable the broad-scale evaluation of ES to serve as input for informing policy decisions that will afterward translate into actions on the ecosystems

The indicators proposed in this study give an idea of the potential an ecosystem has to deliver certain goods or services, but do not measure the actual amount of goods or services existing or delivered. For example, considering the indicators ‘Number of frugivore species’, ‘Number of rare species’, ‘Number of species of interest’, and ‘Number of symbolic species’, it is possible to apply a factor to the area covered by a certain ecosystem type to estimate the number of species, but they should consider the phenomenon of defaunation (e.g. Dirzo et al., 2014; Giacomini and Galetti, 2013) affecting some regions, by which the area of an ecosystem does not necessarily inform about the number of species actually living in it. Another example of the limitations of these indicators would be the indicator ‘Number of summer cottages’ also in Table 2, which provides an assessment of the affluence of beneficiaries, but not of the ES itself. This means that the indicator can only assess the existence of the ES only if the ES is already being used, but might miss the potential of other sites to deliver this particular ES if nobody is there to benefit from it.

If you are interested to know more details about this complete set of indicators and how is it generated and more please check the full review article below written by Nelson Grima, Marie-Claude Jutras-Perreault, Terje Gobakken, Hans Ole Ørka, and Harald Vacik.