Identifying and prioritising services in European terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems

Paula A. Harrison, Marie Vandewalle, Martin Sykes, Pam M. Berry, Rob Bugter, Francesco de Bello, Christian K. Feld, Ulf Grandin, Richard Harrington, John R. Haslett, Rob H. G. Jongman, Gary W. Luck, Pedro Martins da Silva, Mari Moora, Josef Settele, J. Paulo Sousa, Martin Zobel

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128 Citations (SciVal)


Ecosystems are multifunctional and provide humanity with a broad array of vital services. Effective management of services requires an improved evidence base, identifying the role of ecosystems in delivering multiple services, which can assist policy-makers in maintaining them. Here, information from the literature and scientific experts was used to systematically document the importance of services and identify trends in their use and status over time for the main terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems in Europe. The results from this review show that intensively managed ecosystems contribute mostly to vital provisioning services (e.g. agro-ecosystems provide food via crops and livestock, and forests provide wood), while semi-natural ecosystems (e.g. grasslands and mountains) are key contributors of genetic resources and cultural services (e.g. aesthetic values and sense of place). The most recent European trends in human use of services show increases in demand for crops from agro-ecosystems, timber from forests, water flow regulation from rivers, wetlands and mountains, and recreation and ecotourism in most ecosystems, but decreases in livestock production, freshwater capture fisheries, wild foods and virtually all services associated with ecosystems which have considerably decreased in area (e.g. semi-natural grasslands). The condition of the majority of services show either a degraded or mixed status across Europe with the exception of recent enhancements in timber production in forests and mountains, freshwater provision, water/erosion/natural hazard regulation and recreation/ecotourism in mountains, and climate regulation in forests. Key gaps in knowledge were evident for certain services across all ecosystems, including the provision of biochemicals and natural medicines, genetic resources and the regulating services of seed dispersal, pest/disease regulation and invasion resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2791-2821
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Physical Geography


  • Wetlands
  • Trends
  • Rivers
  • Soils
  • Multifunctionality
  • Mountains
  • Lakes
  • Heathlands/shrublands
  • Grasslands
  • Forests
  • Agriculture
  • Ecosystem services


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