Systematic analysis of the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem services and value

Authors and Affiliations: 

Paula.A. Harrison1, Mette Termensen2, Pam M. Berry1, Marlgorzata Blicharska3, U. Brandweiner4, Magda Bucur5, Robert Dunford1, Benis Egoh6, Nicoleta Geamănă5, Willemien Geertsema7, John R. Haslett4, Linda Meiresonne8, Gillian Simpson1 and Francis Turkelboom8


1 Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK

2 Department of Policy Analysis, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, Roskilde 4000, Denmark

3Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7050, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden

4 Department of Organismal Biology, University of Salzburg, Hellbrunner Strasse 34, Salzburg 5020, Austria

5 Departamentul de Ecologie Sistemica si Dezvoltare Durabila, Universitatea din Bucuresti, Spl. Independentei 91-95, 050095 Bucuresti, Romania

6 European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Via E. Fermi, 2749, I-21027 Ispra (VA), Italy

7 Alterra-Wageningen UR, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands

8 Reserach Institute for Nature and Forest, Kliniekstraat 25, Brussels 1070, Belgium


Although ecosystem services are generated from myriad interactions occurring in complex systems, improving understanding of at least some of the key relationships between biodiversity and service provision will help guide effective dialogue between science and policy. Considerable research has been undertaken on the contribution of biodiversity to selected ecosystem processes and scientists have begun to extend such work to include ecosystem services. Nevertheless, there are still numerous uncertainties and gaps in scientific knowledge on the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem service providers and ecosystem service beneficiaries. It is unclear how these uncertainties affect decision-makers’ perceptions of the value of biodiversity and their subsequent decisions related to biodiversity conservation.


The EU BESAFE project ( has progressed the state-of-the-art in this area by undertaking a systematic review of the contribution of relevant aspects of biodiversity (key species abundance, functional traits, spatial patterns) to the delivery of specific ecosystem services, and their associated benefits and economic and social values. A database per ecosystem service was developed to consistently capture the information extracted from relevant papers on: (i) the ecosystem service, (ii) the reference, (iii) the location of the study, (iv) the spatial scale, (v) the temporal scale, (vi) the ecosystem service provider (ESP; 7 classes), (vii) the important attributes or traits of the ESP (27 classes), (viii) abiotic factors which affect service delivery, (ix) whether the ESP was also an ecosystem service antagoniser (ESA), (x) negative effects of biodiversity on the service, (xi) the ecosystem service beneficiary (ESB; 4 classes), (xii) the source of value (7 classes), and (xiii) the strength of the evidence.  The data extracted into the database has also been investigated using network analysis to highlight the direction and strength of relationships and reveal the different typologies of biodiversity – ecosystem service – value relationships which exist for different services.  For example, the networks showed that certain types of services tend to be linked with certain types of ESPs.  The information from the systematic review is being used within a set of 12 case studies to test the awareness of different stakeholder groups regarding the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem services and values, and how stakeholder perceptions of these relationships affect argumentation surrounding biodiversity conservation.