Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 2823–2842 | Cite as

A conceptual framework to assess the effects of environmental change on ecosystem services

  • M. D. A. Rounsevell
  • T. P. Dawson
  • P. A. Harrison
Original Paper


A new conceptual framework is presented for the assessment of the impacts of environmental change drivers on ecosystem service provision and the policy and management responses that would derive from the valuation of these impacts. The Framework for Ecosystem Service Provision (FESP), is based on an interpretation of the widely-used Drivers-Pressures-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework. FESP differs from the DPSIR by offering clarity in the definitions of the various DPSIR components as well as introducing novel elements of relevance to the ecosystem service approach. The value of a common framework lies in making the comparison across competing services accessible and clear as well as highlighting the conflicts and trade-offs between not only multiple ecosystem services, but also multiple service beneficiaries. The framework is explicit, for example, in recognising as state variables not only the attributes of the Ecosystem Service Providers (ESPs), but also the attributes of the Ecosystem Service Beneficiaries (ESBs). That a service depends as much on the attributes of the people whose well-being benefits from the service as on the attributes of the biology providing the service is an important step in integrated social-ecological thinking. FESP also identifies the mechanisms of either mitigation or adaptation to the environmental change problem through the effect of these response strategies on specific pressure or state variables. In this way, FESP can contribute to the policies and strategies that are used to support conservation management. This paper describes the principles of FESP and presents some indicative examples of its practical implementation.


Ecosystem services Environmental change DPSIR Drivers and pressures Social-ecological systems 





European Environment Agency


Ecosystem Service Beneficiary


Ecosystem Service Provider


Framework for Ecosystem Service Provision


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment


Social Ecological System


Service Providing Unit


Special Report on Emissions Scenarios



This work was supported by the RUBICODE Coordination Action Project (Rationalising Biodiversity Conservation in Dynamic Ecosystems; funded under the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Commission (Contract No. 036890). RUBICODE is an endorsed project of the Global Land Project of the International Geosphere–Biosphere Project. The authors are grateful to all RUBICODE partners for their contributions to many productive discussions in the development of FESP, and especially to Gary Luck for his insightful comments in reviewing an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. D. A. Rounsevell
    • 1
  • T. P. Dawson
    • 2
  • P. A. Harrison
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for the Study of Environmental Change and Sustainability, School of GeosciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.School of GeographyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Environmental Change InstituteOxford University Centre for the EnvironmentOxfordUK

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