Welcome to the Ecosystem Service Indicators Database
The Ecosystem Service Indicators Database (ESID) was created by the World Resources Institute to make ecosystem service metrics and indicators readily available for use in policy dialogs and decisions, in ecosystem assessments, and in natural resource management decisions.

ESID is an online searchable database where users can find—and contribute—indicators that have been used to apply ecosystem services approaches or hold promise for doing so. Indicator descriptions and other supporting information about how the indicator has been or could be applied are also provided.

We'd also like to acknowledge UNEP-WCMC for contributing a substantial amount of indicators to our working database.

To begin using ESID, visit the Indicators Overview page where you can browse, search and filter the entire collection of indicators.

More Information:
About the Database    
Ecosystem services are the benefits that people derive from nature. Some benefits, such as crops, fish, and freshwater (provisioning services), are tangible. Others, such as pollination, erosion regulation, climate regulation (regulating services), and aesthetic and spiritual fulfillment (cultural services) are less tangible. All, however, directly or indirectly underpin human economies and livelihoods.

Indicators of ecosystem services help track and communicate how ecosystems support our physical, economic, and social well-being. In doing so, they can help public and private sector decision-makers formulate decisions that will maintain ecosystem health and help reverse current trends of ecosystem degradation.

Compilation Covers Overall Ecosystem Services Framework
Humans have typically managed socio-economic and environmental realms as distinct entities, and efforts to integrate them have often fallen short. One of the strengths of the ecosystem services approach is that it helps integrate these realms. Since policy-makers and other target audiences will need metrics for each element of the ecosystem services conceptual framework to successfully apply the approach, ESID includes metrics and indicators for each framework component (see the framework section below on this page for more on this).

Including indicators for all elements of the ecosystem services conceptual framework makes it more relevant for shaping policy, but also means that only a portion of compiled indicators are focused specifically on ecosystem services. Given the large number of indicators in ESID, finding indicators for a specific area of interest is best done by filtering and/or searching on the Indicators Overview page.

Sources of Compiled Metrics and Indicators
The ecosystem service indicators in ESID are mostly compiled from the Global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and Sub-global Assessments. Since ecosystem services is a relatively new approach, the conceptual and data underpinnings for metrics and indicators is underdeveloped compared to some other fields. The indicators included in this database from these assessments are therefore mixed in their quality and applicability. Many of the indicators are still conceptual in nature, lacking metrics, approaches, and demonstrated relevance with target audiences. However, each indicator was used to convey an idea and was included in this compendium in case it could form the basis for a more completely developed indicator.
A Beta 1.0 "Working Paper" Release    
The Ecosystem Service Indicators Database is being released as a beta version, the equivalent of a WRI working paper. We recognize there are limitations in this release, including numerous indicators still lacking descriptions and other supporting data, and possible improvements to site functionality are needed. We have chosen to release ESID in beta form in order to:
  1. Make the resource available for use by target audiences as soon as possible;
  2. Allow others working on ecosystem service indicators to contribute additional metrics and indicators to the compilation and improve those already contained in ESID;
  3. Solicit ideas for what functionality will make an indicator compilation as useful as possible.
Ecosystem Service Indicators Framework    
A Hybrid Framework

The Ecosystem Service Indicators Database seeks to support the application of ecosystem service metrics and indicators. To facilitate users' ability to search for, sort, and understand how indicators are relevant for apply ecosystem service approaches, the indicators have been organized into a database based primarily on the Millennium Ecosystem Service conceptual framework. Other frameworks, including the Driving Force-Pressure-State-Impact-Response framework, have also influenced the framework developed to organize the ESID database. The similarities and differences between the framework used for this database (referred to as the Ecosystem Service Indicators Framework) and the Millennium Assessment conceptual framework are briefly described below. For a more complete description of the frameworks and their elements, download the Foundations of the Ecosystem Service Indicators Framework.

The Ecosystem Service Indicators Framework consists of 9 elements grouped in four categories:
  • Ecosystems, Services, and Benefits (shown in green)
    • Ecosystem Condition and Biodiversity
    • Ecosystem Functions
    • Services
    • Benefits
  • Human Well-being (shown in blue)
    • Human well-being
  • Policy Strategies and Interventions (shown in yellow)
    • Policy strategies and interventions
  • Drivers and Pressures (shown in purple)
    • Indirect drivers
    • Direct drivers
    • Pressures

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Framework

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a four-year study of the state of the world’s ecosystems involving more than 1,300 experts from 95 countries, developed a conceptual framework illustrating how ecosystems and their ecosystem services support human well-being and poverty reduction. The framework is built around the concept of ecosystem services, of which there are provisioning services (such as crops, fish, water, fiber), regulating services (such as erosion control, nutrient regulation, pollination, local and global climate regulation), cultural services (spiritual fulfillment, recreation, livelihood strategies) and supporting services (soil formation from bedrock weathering, net primary productivity, etc.). This framework has proven effective for communicating how ecosystems underlie human well-being. Early efforts to apply ecosystem services concepts and information have strengthened both public and private sector development strategies and improved environmental outcomes.

The DPSIR Framework

In recommendation to the European Environment Agency (EEA) on how they should proceed with the development of a strategy for Integrated Environmental Assessment, RIVM2 proposed the use of a framework, which distinguished driving forces, pressures, states, impacts and responses. This became known as the DPSIR framework and has since been more widely adopted by the EEA, acting as an integrated approach for reporting, e.g. in the EEA’s State of the Environment Reports. The framework is seen as giving a structure within which to present the indicators needed to enable feedback to policy makers on environmental quality and the resulting impact of the political choices made or to be made in the future.

According to the DPSIR framework there is a chain of causal links starting with "driving forces" (economic sectors, human activities) through "pressures" (emissions, waste) to "states" (physical, chemical and biological) and "impacts" on ecosystems, human health and functions, eventually leading to political "responses" (prioritisation, target setting, indicators). Describing the causal chain from driving forces to impacts and responses is a complex task and tends to be broken down into sub-tasks, e.g. by considering the pressure-state relationship.