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Ecosystem service indicators: data sources and conceptual frameworks for sustainable management

Jan Dick (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Penicuik, UK)
Ron Smith (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Penicuik, UK)
Lindsay Banin (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Penicuik, UK)
Stefan Reis (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Penicuik, UK)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 5 August 2014




The purpose of this paper is to review, from a sustainable management perspective, a range of conceptual frameworks; determine the efficacy and utility of three different data sources in generating indicators collectively; and consider the utility of a single index of total ecosystem services (TESI). The ecosystem service (ES) concept has been discussed as an important model to aid sustainable land-use management.


The historical development and the relative merits of sustainable management frameworks which can be implemented in a decision-making context were examined. The efficacy of a single index TESI was examined considering three data sources for 11 contrasting sites within the UK.


The choice of conceptual framework and data source depends on the specific question and scale being addressed. Publicly available data through the Eurostat route is primarily limited to the assessment of the provisioning services.

Research limitations/implications

Limitation of the study is that both bottom-up and top-down sourcing of data to conduct an ES assessment were considered.

Practical implications

The scale of enquiry when conducting ES assessment to aid sustainable management dictate the most useful data source. If conducting local assessments that give local data is more appropriate while conducting European Union (EU)-wide assessment gives less local precision, it does provide some insight when conducting larger-scale regional assessment which cannot otherwise be achieved.


The various data set analysed in this study all provided insight for sustainable management.



The authors thank the many people who have contributed to the collection and storage of ECN data both at sites and the Central Coordination Unit. ECN is funded by Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (Northern Ireland), Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, Countryside Council for Wales, National Assembly for Wales, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Natural England, Natural Environment Research Council, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) authors also acknowledge being supported by the Natural Environment Research Council through the VNN [grant number NE/I015086/1]. The work on integrating concepts for ESs assessments has been funded in the frame of the Network of Excellence Linking Impact Assessment Instruments to Sustainability Expertise (LIAISE), funded under the EU 7th Framework Programme (grant agreement number: 243826). The authors are also grateful to the EU FP7 OpenNESS project (grant agreement number: 308428) for encouraging collaboration.


Dick, J., Smith, R., Banin, L. and Reis, S. (2014), "Ecosystem service indicators: data sources and conceptual frameworks for sustainable management", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 346-375.



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