Core Element 1: Nature's Services

In ecosystem-based management (EBM), goals and success are defined in terms of sustaining nature’s services such as fisheries, climate regulation, and recreational opportunities, including any that fall outside an organization's primary mission. Nature's services are called ecosystem services by scientists.

Focus Questions

  • Which nature's services does the geographic area provide, and where are they produced within the area?
  • How important or valuable are the nature's services provided in the geographic area?
  • What nature's services do people want and need from the focal area in the future?
  • Based on societal values, what quantitative management goal should be set for each type of nature's service in the area?
  • How might nature's services change in the future under different management scenarios?

Learn More

Listed below are selected resources for learning about and implementing this Core Element of EBM. The list is far from comprehensive and highlights only a few especially useful examples.


Introduction to nature's services, or ecosystem services
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Ecosystem Services: A Primer
Ecological Society of America

Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision-Making
National Research Council of the National Academies

Edited by Gretchen C. Daily

 in Ecosystem-Based Management for the Oceans
Edited by Heather Leslie and Karen McLeod

Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services
Worm, B., et al. 2006. Science 314:787-790

Case Studies

Ecosystem Services in Decision Making: Time to Deliver
Daily, G. C., et al. 2009. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 7(1):21–28


Integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA)
An IEA is a formal synthesis and quantitative analysis of information on relevant natural and socio–economic factors in relation to specified ecosystem management goals.

Ecoregional assessment (ERA)
An ERA compiles, organizes, and analyzes information about distribution and vulnerability of species, habitats, and nature’s services.

Landscape-value and special-place mapping
Landscape-value and special-place mapping is a planning technique used to support integrative planning efforts at multiple scales ranging from local to national scales.


InVEST is a tool that models and maps the delivery, distribution, and economic value of nature’s services, or natural capital.

MIMES (Multiscale Integrated Model of the Earth System’s Ecological Services) is a modeling framework for understanding the ecological processes that generate nature’s services.

Keypad polling systems
These integrated hardware-software systems are a user-friendly, engaging way to gather the opinions and priorities of stakeholders during meetings.

With CITYgreen software, users can conduct complex analyses of ecosystem services and create easy-to-understand reports.

Wildlife Habitat Benefits Estimation Toolkit
This Toolkit is a set of easy-to-use spreadsheet-based valuation models, tables and databases for estimating the economic benefits associated with wildlife and habitat conservation in specific geographic areas.


National Ocean Economics Program
The National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) provides a full range of the most current economic and socio-economic information available on changes and trends along the U.S. coast and in coastal waters.

Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS)
OBIS provides a portal or gateway to many datasets containing information on where and when marine species have been recorded.

Economic Values of Coral Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses: A Global Compilation (PDF)
Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservational International, Arlington, VA, USA.

Connection with other Core Elements (CEs) of EBM

CE2:Scientific Evidence
Scientific evidence is essential to understand how nature's services are generated, measure the value of nature's services, monitor changes in nature's services, and determine how human activities affect nature's services.

CE4:Ecological Linkages
Ecological linkages produce nature's services.

CE5:Cumulative Impacts
Cumulative impacts on nature's services are the focus of EBM.

CE6:Tradeoffs Among Human Activities
EBM focuses on tradeoffs in nature's services such as tradeoffs under alternative management scenarios.

CE7:Adaptive Management
EBM decisions are based on information about nature's services.

CE8:Network of People and Information
Nature's services are the focus of EBM visioning, goal setting, and information-sharing.


ArrowRead about Core Element 2: Scientific Evidence