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Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. Trends

Home » Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES)

Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES)

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A MAES Urban policy workshop will take place on 31 May 2016 in Utrecht, The Netherlands. This workshop aims for strengthening synergies between the EU Urban Agenda, the EU research agenda on Nature Based Solutions and the potential of Urban Green Infrastructure. See: link

A MAES Delivery Workshop was organized in Brussels on 15-16 December 2015, which also addressed how MAES could best contribute to IPBES regional assessment for Europe and Central Asia. See link



Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 calls Member States to map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services in their national territory with the assistance of the European Commission. A dedicated Working Group has been established under the CIF to deliver under Action 5.

Why are we doing this?

In line with the Millennium Ecosystem assessment (MA), the objective of the EU assessment is to provide a critical evaluation of the best available information for guiding decisions on complex public issues. The work being carried out is important for the advancement of biodiversity objectives, and also to inform the development and implementation of related policies, on water, climate, agriculture, forest, and regional planning. Robust, reliable and comparable data are also important for the planning and implementation of individual projects.

Why mapping?

Maps are useful for spatially explicit prioritisation and problem identification, especially in relation to synergies and trade-offs among different ecosystem services, and between ecosystem services and biodiversity. Further, maps can be used as a communication tool to initiate discussions with stakeholders, visualizing the locations where valuable ecosystem services are produced or used and explaining the relevance of ecosystem services to the public in their territory. 

MAES Analytical Framework

A first outcome is the development of a coherent analytical framework to be applied by the EU and its Member States in order to ensure consistent approaches are used. It is therefore framed by a broad set of key policy questions. It is structured around a conceptual framework that links human societies and their well-being with the environment.  


Conceptual framework for EU wide ecosystem assessment

Conceptual framework for EU wide ecosystem assessment




Typology of ecosystems

The proposed typology distinguishes 12 main ecosystem types based on the higher levels of the EUNIS Habitat Classification, which is a European reference classification with cross linkages to the habitat types listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive.


Correspondence between Corine Land Cover classes and ecosystem types

The mapping of ecosystems is largely dependent on the availability of land-cover/land-use datasets at various spatial resolutions. The most comprehensive dataset for terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems at EU level is Corine Land Cover (CLC). The CLC dataset allows also mapping of one of the four marine ecosystems (marine inlets and transitional waters).


Crosswalks between European marine habitat typologies

The harmonisation of ecosystem definitions and mapping in the marine environment is supported by crosswalks between the EUNIS habitat classification (marine component), the predominant habitat types of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive ( MSFD) and the habitat types used by the EUSeaMap as well as by clarifications on the links between the coastal and marine habitat types in Annex I of the Habitats Directive.

Ecosystem services 


Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES)  

CICES builds on the existing classifications (MA, TEEB) but focuses on the ecosystem service dimension. In the CICES system services are either provided by living organisms (biota) or by a combination of living organisms and abiotic processes. 


Categories of ecosystem services (MA, TEEB and CICES)

The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) developed for environmental accounting purposes is proposed as classification system of ecosystem services as it offers a structure that links with the framework of the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA 2003). 


Mapping ecosystems

Map of European Ecosystem types

A first version of a European ecosystem map covering spatially explicit ecosytem types for land and freshwater at 1 ha spatial resolution. Ecosystems are mapped by interpreting available land cover data on the basis of the European habitat classification (EUNIS). For the marine part the maps has been developed using global data sets such as sea bed conditions, bathymetry, etc. The map is also available in the MAES digital atlas.


Reference data for ecosystem mapping

Elements which have been used to create the map of European ecosystem types.


The Ecosystem Services Partnership Visualisation tool

The ESP-VT is an interactive knowledge platform that allows users to share information on ecosystem services maps, data and mapping methods.


MAES catalogue of case-studies

The catalogue of case studies is a collection of country deliverables provided as documents. The collection will cover studies at various scales and with different focuses.


MAES digital atlas

The MAES digital atlas is designed to present in a systematic way maps of ecosystem types and ecosystem services. Only maps which have been published online at European, national or subnational scale can be integrated here.


Assessing Ecosystem Condition


Indicators of ecosystem conditions      

Table providing a set of cross-ecosystem biodiverity indicators, which can be used for assessments and which aim to ensure a consistent approach across the EU.

EU-wide assessment of ecosystems and conditions

Table synthesizing the main datasets and indicators that are available for a EU wide assessment of ecosystems and their conditions.

Assessing Ecosystem Services


Indicators for ecosystem services across ecosystems

Table providing a summary of green and yellow indicators based on the information provided by MAES symmary tables of four ecosystem pilots.


The following indicators were collected in the four ecosystem pilots to measure ecosystem services at national scale.

Forest Ecosystem Services
Indicators for provisioning services Indicators for regulating services Indicators for cultural services
Cropland and grassland services
Indicators for provisioning services Indicators for regulating services Indicators for cultural services
Freshwater services
Indicators for ecosystem services
Marine services
Indicators for ecosystem services


Natural Capital Accounting


Glossary of terms


Key documents

This first MAES report provides an analytical framework.

This second MAES report proposes indicators that can be used at European and Member State level to map  and assess biodiversity, ecosystem condition and ecosystem services according to the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES)

The report presents an analysis of the trends in the spatial extent of ecosystems and in the supply and use of ecosystem services at the European scale between 2000 and 2010.

An in-depth report published by the European Commission (DG-ENV).

This report summarises EEA contributions to MAES

This report synthesises the European Environment Agency's (EEA's) work on ecosystem mapping and assessment over the last few years.

This third MAES report focuses on the condition of ecosystems. The report synthesises the European Environment Agency’s (EEA’s) work on ecosystem mapping and assessment over the last few years.

The aim of this report is to illustrate by means of a series of case studies the implementation of mapping and assessment of forest ecosystem services in different contexts and geographical levels. Methodological aspects, data issues, approaches, limitations, gaps and further steps for improvement are analysed for providing good practices and decision making guidance.

This fourth MAES report provides guidance for mapping and assessing urban ecosystems and includes an indicator framework to assess the condition of urban ecosystems and services, which is used at European, Member State and local level.

Further reading

Key projects

OpenNESS aims to translate the concepts of Natural Capital (NC) and Ecosystem Services (ES) into operational frameworks that provide tested, practical and tailored solutions for integrating ES into land, water and urban management and decision-making. It examines how the concepts link to, and support, wider EU economic, social and environmental policy initiatives and scrutinizes the potential and limitations of the concepts of ES and NC.

OPERAs aims to bridge the gap between ecosystem science and practice. The project is focused on ecosystem services and natural capital science and on enabling stakeholders to apply these concepts in practice.

The objective of ESMERALDA is to share experience through an active process of dialogue and knowledge co-creation that will enable participants to achieve the aims of Action 5 of Target 2 of the EU biodiversity strategy. The mapping approach proposed will integrate biophysical, social and economic assessment techniques. The work will exploit expert- and land cover-based methods, existing ES indicator data and more complex ES models.