Ecosystem services

What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystem services describe the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems (MA, 2005). They outline the direct and indirect contributions that ecosystems make to human well-being. Ecosystem services are directly linked to the underlying ecosystem functions, processes and structures that generate them (CICES, 2012).

Why are ecosystem services important?

Ecosystem services help make visible the vital roles that ecosystems play in supporting human lives.  By clearly linking ecological and socioeconomic systems, the ecosystem service concept is intended to foster enhanced appreciation and protection of global ecosystems.

However, there is still uncertainty about how ecosystem services are related to ecosystem structure, functioning, habitat type, size and condition. The EU MARS project is investigating how multiple stresses (e.g. pollution, overabstraction) affect the ecosystem services that Europe’s freshwaters can provide.

Ecosystem services can be divided into three main groups:


Reports and publications:

CICES (2012). Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services - Report to the European Environment Agency prepared by R. Haines-Young & M. Potschin (Download report, 1.8mb)

MA(2005). Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, Chapter 7 - Freshwater Ecosystem Services (Download report, 700kb)


Millennium ecosystem assessment - Guide to the Millennium Assessment Reports (External website)