Draft Classification of Ecosystem Services

The aim of the classification shown below is to develop a flexible structure that broadly links the categories of goods and ecosystem service that are being discussed in on-going international initiatives such as the MA, TEEB, and the functional groupings considered in the SEEA. In proposing this structure the aim is not to put forward a scheme that replaces any existing typologies, but to provide a standard that allows the translation between different systems.

The development of this draft standard has also taken account of the need to link service classes to groupings used in the various international standard classifications for products and activities; a prerequisite of the design has been that the groupings should initially be generic and amenable to further sub-categorisation to produce a nested, hierarchical structure. It attempts, where possible, to use terminology and definitions around which consensus exists.

The classification is based on the widely accepted definition of ecosystem services as the contributions that ecosystems make to human well being. The classification also seeks to distinguish ‘services’ from ‘benefits’. Thus a benefit is seen as a component of human well-being (e.g. health) while a service is anything that may change the level of that benefit (e.g. air quality, food supply). Following Fisher et al. (2009) the benefits humans gain from ecosystems are seen as being derived from intermediate and final services; essentially services should be ecological or biophysical phenomena.

For the purposes of the classification the term ‘ecosystem services’ refers to both ‘goods’ and ‘services’, although the distinction between the provisioning theme on the one hand, and the regulating and cultural themes on the other, can be used to separate the two sets of ecosystem outputs.

To help with the problem of valuation and more particularly the cross-tabulation of services with other product and activity classifications, CICES focuses on the ‘final’ products our outputs of ecosystems, rather than on intermediate or supporting services or functions. At the top level there are three major Themes (Provisioning, Regulating and Cultural). Within these ten service Classes are identified, each subdivided into a number of Types. The types can be subdivided further as use of the classification develops.