, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1-15
Date: 24 Nov 2012

The use of geographic information systems to map and assess ecosystem services

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Abstract

In recent years, geographic information systems (GIS) have become a powerful tool for mapping and assessing the provision of ecosystem services within a landscape. GIS can help land managers and conservationists visualize spatial and temporal patterns and changes in ecosystem services and estimate the potential impact from projected changes in land use or management or climatic conditions on the provision of these services. The end-goal of ecosystem service assessment is usually to estimate marginal values of ecosystem services to inform decisions where trade-offs in ecosystem service provision will affect human well-being. Because our ability to estimate the provision of ecosystem services underlies our ability to estimate their societal values, the theoretical bases of GIS approaches and models for assessing ecosystem services need to be well understood before they are employed for decision-making purposes. This paper reviews GIS approaches and software developed for the assessment of ecosystem services and highlights their strengths and weaknesses in the context of different end uses.