Ecosystem services

The topic of Ecosystem Services is a "Research flagship" at Aarhus University.

A "Research flagship" is an area where internationally recognized research of high quality is conducted. The Department of Environmental Science has three such research flagships.

Ecosystem services are the contributions that ecosystems make to human well-being, including provision of food and fiber, regulation of the biosphere and cultural services. 

Integrating ecology, geography, economics and other social science disciplines increases the understanding of how environmental policies and management of ecosystems influences ecological processes and in turn the services humans derive. 

Ecosystem Services research – Key concepts and initiatives

Ecosystem services (ES) became popular with the Millennium ecosystem Assessment (MA, 2005). The framework for assessment developed a typology of services into four classes:

  • provisioning services
  • regulation services
  • supporting survices
  • cultural services

These denote the different ways in which ecosystems provide benefits to people.

Since 2005 national level ecosystem assessments have been undertaken, notably the British UKNEA (UK National Ecosystem Assessment), 2011.

European level initiatives are currently in progress under the MAES (Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services) process.

At the global level the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) is the science-policy platform coordinating Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service knowledge.

The Danish initiatives have been coordinated under the MAESDK projects in collaboration between the Environmental Science Department at Aarhus University and the Department of Food and Natural Resources (IFRO) at Copenhagen University.

Research in Ecosystem Services at the Department of Environmental Science

The research is based on expertise in the Department’s research groups for Environmental social science and Emission modelling and environmental geography, and is developed in national and international collaborations.

The general research focus of the “research flagship” is to:

  • Understand the environmental and social processes underpinning ecosystem services
  • Develop valuation methodologies to evaluate the effects on human well-being of changes in ecosystem service
  • Develop spatial modelling approaches to study changes in ecosystem services
  • Develop spatial economic models to analyze the provision of ecosystem services and the synergies and conflicts between ecosystem services
  • Understand the pros & cons of alternative policy instruments to govern ecosystem services

The research initiative develops key concepts and methodologies in a range of ecosystem contexts:

  • Agro-ecological systems
  • Marine and Freshwater systems
  • Forest systems
  • Urban systems
  • Cross system analyses