Structure of CICES

The aim of CICES V4.3 is not to replace other classifications of ecosystem services but to enable people to move more easily between them and to understand more clearly how people are measuring and analyzing information. You can see the broad equivalences between CICES and the MA and TEEB Classifications here.

Following common usage, the classification recognizes these outputs to be provisioning, regulating and cultural services, but it does not cover the so-called ‘supporting services’ originally defined in the MA. The supporting services are treated as part of the underlying structures, process and functions that characterise ecosystems. Since they are only indirectly consumed or used, and may simultaneously facilitate the output of many ‘final outputs’, it was considered that they were best dealt with in environmental accounts, in other ways.

For the ‘final ecosystem services’, CICES describes them using a five-level hierarchical structure:

  • Section (e.g. Provisioning)
  • Division (e.g. Nutrition)
  • Group (e.g. Terrestrial plants and animals for food)
  • Class (e.g. crops)
  • Class type (e.g. wheat).

The diagram below shows how the system works.


The  table  below shows the overall structure of CICES for the upper three tiers in the Classification:


The hierarchical structure is in line with United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD) best practice guidance. The first four levels can be used for ecosystem accounting, for example, without reducing the utility of the classification for different users, such as those concerned with mapping who may need more detailed categories.

The hierarchical structure is also designed to address issues of scale and accommodate geographical differences in what kinds of ecosystem output are recognised as a service. Thus the more aggregated Groups and Division categories may be used for reporting at broader spatial scales, where a number of the more specific classes are combined. At finer geographical scales, these broader categories of service might be represented by the specific classes that make sense at the local level.

The hierarchical structure allows further classes and classes types to be added as new applications emerge, and therefore is not intended to be exhaustive. Rather it is intended as a framework that can develop over time.

Note: Abiotic ecosystem outputs are not included in the classification. The accompanying report explains the rationale for the current structure and suggests how ecosystem outputs that are not dependent on living processes might be handled in a way that is consistent with the classification shown above.

You can see the draft structure for abiotic services below: