Classifying Ecosystem Services

By: Roy Haines-Young and Marion Potschin, University of Nottingham

1. Introduction

There are now a number of different ways of classifying ecosystem services in the user community. Some people use the set defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment others prefer the list devised by TEEB. At national scales, other systems have also been designed, as in the case of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA).

In order to help people navigate between these different systems, a Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) has been developed. It is not intended to replace these other classification systems but to allow the easy translation between them. CICES was developed as part of the work done in Europe on ecosystem accounting (see Haines-Young and Potschin, 2012). It has also been taken up by the European working group on Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services (MAES, 2012).

2. The Structure of CICES

Figure 1 The hierarchical structure of CICES

CICES has gone through a number of evolutionary stages since it was first proposed in 2009. The most recent version (V4.3) has been used as the basis of this work (see Haines-Young and Potschin, 2013). CICES provides a framework for classifying final ecosystem services that are dependent on living processes (biodiversity). It is hierarchical in structure (Figure 1), with each level providing a more detailed description of the ecosystem service being considered. The figure shows how it works by cultivated crops. The hierarchical structure means that studies that are undertaken at different thematic and spatial resolutions can more easily compared.

3. The BBN Ecosystem Service Classification Tool

To create the tool described here, the categories at the class level in CICES have been tabulated against the ecosystem services listed in the MA, TEEB, the UK NEA, and recent work in Belgium to create a version of CICES which needs national needs and at the same time confirms to international standards (Turkelboom et al. 2013). CICES at the class level was chosen because it is the most detailed classification available. There is not always a one-to-one correspondence between the systems and some categories in one system are more general than in others. Thus the BBN tool is intended to show how the different classification categories are nested into each other.

Figure 2 Structure of the BBN CICES classification tool

The structure of the system is shown in Figure 2. Using the web-based tool that has been build using this network, you can select a service in one or other of the classifications and see how they are named in the other systems.

BBN's express the chances that a node is in a particular state as a probability. In the case of this network, the probabilities merely indicate how likely you are to be taking about a category in one classification given the category that you have selected in another system, or at one of the higher levels in CICES. The probabilities simply indicate the number of categories in the other systems that could correspond to the one that you are dealing with. A fuller account of the tool can be found in Haines-Young and Potschin (2013b).

Below is a set of HUGIN widgets for interacting with the model (click on the probability bar to instantiate a node or remove evidence):










Haines-Young, R. and Potschin, M. (2013a): Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES): Consultation on Version 4, August-December 2012. EEA Framework Contract No EEA/IEA/09/003. Download at and a full spread sheet showing the classification.

Haines-Young R. and Potschin M. (2013b): Classifying ecosystem services using Bayesian Networks. CEM Working Paper No13. Working paper

MAES (2012): An analytical framework for ecosystem assessments under action 5 of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. Discussion paper - draft version 9.6

Turkelboom, F., Raquez, P., Dufr ne, M., et al. (19 authors) (2013). CICES going local: Ecosystem services classification adapted for a highly populated country. In Jacobs, S., Dendoonker, N., and Keune, H. (eds) Ecosystem Services. Chicago, pp. 223-247

Contact information

For further details contact: Roy