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3.1.3 Disentangling complexity of the relationships between ecosystems, their features and the provided services

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The link between ecosystem functions and ecological processes is not very explicit and varies among studies.

While some sources used both terms indifferently (e.g. MEA), other sources (e.g. TEEB, Fletcher et al., 2011) defined ecological processes or core ecosystem processes as the basic physical, chemical or ecological processes which occur within ecosystems (e.g. photosynthesis, fluxes of nutrients, competition), and ecosystem functions or beneficial ecosystem processes as specific ecosystem processes that underpin the capacity of an ecosystem to provide goods and services.

Another way for disentangling the complexity of the relationships between ecosystems, their features and the services they may deliver is to use a framework which clearly separates fundamental biophysical processes, ecological functions, final services and benefits (see following table).

According to this classification, biophysical processes include parameters and regimes which define the fundamental features of the ecosystems, ecological functions are the “intermediate services” which result from the interactions between biota and their physical environment or among different biota, and the final services are these ecosystem services that different user groups will be able to capture as benefits for themselves.

In this classification, the conventional “ecosystem services” category is thus equivalent to the “final services”, which are “demand-oriented” in that sense that there exist due to the demand of at least one clearly identified user group. On the other hand, “intermediate services” are these ecological functions which may be observed but which are not necessarily transformed into a benefit for a given portion of society.

Table: List of Biophysical processes, Ecological functions, Ecosystem services and Benefits.(Source: Atkins et al., 2011; Beaumont et al., 2007; Boyd and Banzhaf, 2007; Fisher et al., 2009)

3 1 2  Table From Biophysical to Benefits

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