New rapid methodology for assessing ecosystem services at the site-scale

BirdLife International has been working with a range of collaborators to develop and pilot a new ‘toolkit’ for assessing ecosystem services at the site scale, designed to lead to better land use planning to support both biodiversity conservation and ecosystem delivery, and to enhance economic sustainability and human well-being.

Natural ecosystems provide human societies with an extensive range of benefits, including the production of food and clean water, and the control of climate. Unfortunately, more than 60% of these benefits—known as ecosystem services—are in decline (MEA 2005). The loss and degradation of ecosystems and the biodiversity they support can disrupt and diminish these essential services with severe economic, social and environmental impacts on people. The importance of maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services is increasingly being recognised and is a key issue on many national and international agendas (TEEB 2010).

However, ecosystem services assessment has largely focused on broad scale, global analyses, using rough proxy measures from remote sensing or on intensive and expensive measures at a few sites. To inform practical conservation decision-making, an intermediate approach is being piloted. BirdLife International, the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife in the UK), University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University along with others, have developed a ‘toolkit’ of ground-based, site-focused, participatory, robust and inexpensive methods for ecosystem services assessment and monitoring. The work has been funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative programme and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Field studies have so far been conducted at sites in Nepal, Montserrat, UK, Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Ecuador. Many of these case studies have been led by BirdLife Partners. The sites share similar characteristics in that they are all critical sites for birds and wider biodiversity, and also provide many livelihood benefits to local people: for example, the water regulation service provided by the paramo grasslands of Parque Nacional Llanganates (Ecuador), or harvested wild goods such as the fish and other aquatic animals at Boeung Prek Lapouv (Cambodia). Benefits can often be realised by more distant beneficiaries such as the global climate regulation service of forests at Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park (Nepal) or opportunities for nature-based tourism such as at Wicken Fen in the UK. In all cases, the results highlight the value of these sites to a range of beneficiaries and in particular to local stakeholders, and the negative impacts that land use change at these sites may have on the delivery of services and to whom.

It is anticipated that the new ‘toolkit’ will enable BirdLife Partners and other organisations—including local stakeholders—to carry out similar analyses at their sites of interest in order to present the scientific information in a way that can be easily used by site managers, community conservation groups, regional and national decision-makers, encouraging them to make informed decisions about development and land use planning, incorporating the value of nature.

Related Case Studies in other sections


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Living beyond our means: natural assets and human well-being. Washington D.C: Island Press.
TEEB (2010) The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: ecological and economic foundations. Earthscan.

Compiled: 2012    Copyright: 2012   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2012) New rapid methodology for assessing ecosystem services at the site-scale. Downloaded from on 05/12/2023