Spatial data, analysis approaches, and information needs for spatial ecosystem service assessments: A review

Margaret E. Andrew, Michael A. Wulder, Trisalyn A. Nelson, Nicholas C. Coops

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Operational use of the ecosystem service (ES) concept in conservation and planning requires quantitative assessments based on accurate mapping of ESs. Our goal is to review spatial assessments of ESs, with an emphasis on the socioecological drivers of ESs, the spatial datasets commonly used to represent those drivers, and the methodological approaches used to spatially model ESs. We conclude that diverse strategies, integrating both spatial and aspatial data, have been used to map ES supply and human demand. Model parameters representing abiotic ecosystem properties can be supported by use of well-developed and widely available spatial datasets. Land-cover data, often manipulated or subject to modeling in a GIS, is the most common input for ES modeling; however, assessments are increasingly informed by a mechanistic understanding of the relationships between drivers and services. We suggest that ES assessments are potentially weakened by the simplifying assumptions often needed to translate between conceptual models and widely used spatial data. Adoption of quantitative spatial data that more directly represent ecosystem properties may improve parameterization of mechanistic ES models and increase confidence in ES assessments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-373
Number of pages30
JournalGIScience and Remote Sensing
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2015


  • ecological processes
  • ecosystem function
  • ecosystem services
  • land cover
  • satellite
  • spatial data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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