Integrating ecosystem services into conservation assessments: A Review

18 October 2010

A call has been made for conservation planners to include ecosystem services into their assessments of conservation priority areas. The need to develop an integrated approach to meeting different conservation objectives and a shift in focus towards human wellbeing are some of the motivations behind this call. There is currently no widely accepted approach to planning for ecosystem services. This study contributes towards the development of this approach through a review of conservation assessments and the extent to which they include ecosystem services. Of the 476 conservation assessments identified by a set of search terms on theWeb of Science, 100 were randomly selected for this review.Of these only seven had included ecosystem services, while another 13 had referred to ecosystem services as a rationale for conservation without including them in the assessment. The majority of assessments were based on biodiversity pattern data while 19 used data on ecological processes. A total of 11 of these 19 assessments used processes, which could be linked to services. Ecosystemservices have witnessed an increase in attention received in conservation assessments since the year 2000, however trendswere not apparent beyond this date. In order to assesswhich types of ecosystem services and how they have been accounted for in conservation assessments, we extended our review to include an additional nine conservation assessments which included ecosystem services. The majority included cultural ecosystemservices, followed by regulatory, provisioning and supporting services respectively. We conclude with an analysis of the constraints and opportunities for the integration of ecosystem services into conservation assessments and highlight the urgent need for an appropriate framework for planning for ecosystem services.