Ecosystem Services


The value and understanding of river networks in terms of the multiple ecosystem services they can provide is not sufficiently appreciated. Moreover, there is currently a lack of useable tools for mapping, assessing and monitoring ecosystem services across river systems and through time. The overall aims of this working group are therefore two-fold:


  1. To build an international network of scientists and practitioners and user groups based on a system of scientific knowledge co-production focusing on river ecosystem services.
  2. Collaboration with network partners, users and the public to develop methods and tools to co-produce environmental knowledge, with the ultimate deliverable being a widely accessible, yet scientifically-based mapping methodology in the form of an Information and Guidance Manual for assessing and mapping river ecosystem services.


Over the lifetime of the working group (4-6 years) , we will build the nucleus of a network; via a process of knowledge co-production the key legacy will be raised awareness in riverine ecosystem services with targeted team-building to ensure engagement with as wide an audience as possible. This will be achieved by two complementary groups of objectives:


  1. Scientific knowledge co-production: engaging with as wide a range of the user, practitioner and academic communities as possible, this project will:
  • Explore the realities and challenges of effective identification of river habitat features, and how processes, functioning and resultant ecosystem services can be inferred from aerial imagery, framing this in terms of the ecosystem services ‘cascade model’ of Potschin & Haines-Young (2011).
  • Define protocols needed to move from habitat feature identification to meaningful measure of ecosystem service provision (‘beyond expert judgement’).
  • Use the framework of ‘shifting baselines’ (e.g. Papworth et al., 2009), to more robustly define what constitutes ‘optimal’ ecosystem services delivery.
  • Develop approaches for effective ‘ground-truthing’ of imagery used.
  • With stakeholders and the user community, co-produce an enhanced knowledge base relating to ecosystem service degradation (e.g. dams, levées and floodplain disconnection), blockage of flow continuity and water withdrawals (e.g. drinking water, irrigation).
  • Via knowledge transfer, widen appreciation and understanding of how both more natural and intensively used (e.g. agricultural) landscapes deliver ecosystem services in their own right, recognising that both simple and more complex habitat types can ultimately deliver similar levels of societal benefits.


  1. Methods and tools to co-produce environmental knowledge: the network will:

Develop ways of effectively scoring/weighting cultural (e.g. biodiversity) and supporting (e.g. habitats) ecosystem services in rapid assessment methodologies; and from this produce decision-making tools and Guidelines which will include recognition of societal valuation of services (i.e. ‘what nature does for us’).

  • Ensure Guidelines address inter alia choice of restoration sites, capital expenditure, flood control potential).
  • Ensure the process of knowledge co-production maximises accessibility of Guidelines to non-scientist decision-makers.



We will run several workshops in the coming ISRS meetings. Potential workshops are:

Valuing rivers and ecosystem services’

A workshop using intact and degraded ‘riverscapes’ to generate wider awareness of the relationships between river habitat quality, biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Mapping and assessment of ecosystem services across river networks – what nature can do for us’

A workshop where innovative approaches to ecosystem service mapping and assessment are delivered and refined. We anticipate producing an interim guidance document for participants to take away and test by applying assessment and evaluation techniques to ‘their’ rivers.


Contacts: Profesor David Gilvear, University of Plymouth, UK; Email

Dr Andy Large, University of Newcastle, Uk; Email