, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 314–324 | Cite as

Trends in Ecosystem Service Research: Early Steps and Current Drivers

  • Petteri VihervaaraEmail author
  • Mia Rönkä
  • Mari Walls


Over the past 50 years, human beings have influenced ecosystems more rapidly than at any similar time in human history, drastically altering ecosystem functioning. Along with ecosystem transformation and degradation, a number of studies have addressed the functioning, assessment and management of ecosystems. The concept of ecosystem services has been developed in the scientific literature since the end of the 1970s. However, ecosystem service research has focused on certain service categories, ecosystem types, and geographical areas, while substantial knowledge gaps remain concerning several aspects. We assess the development and current status of ecosystem service research on the basis of publications collected from the Web of Science. The material consists of (1) articles (n = 353) from all the years included in the Web of Science down to the completion of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and (2) more recent articles (n = 687) published between 2006 and 2008. We also assess the importance of international processes, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Kyoto Protocol and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, as drivers of ecosystem service research. Finally, we identify future prospects and research needs concerning the assessment and management of ecosystem services.


Ecosystem change Ecosystem goods Environmental management Environmental policy International conventions Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 



We thank M. Ollikainen and M. Kettunen for assistance in the early phases of the study. E. Valle and M. Vieno kindly checked the language. The study profited greatly from comments by the anonymous referees. The study was financed by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation and by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, and was conducted in cooperation with the CORECO (grant number 111152) and the REGSUS (grant number 131893) projects funded by the Academy of Finland.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Biodiversity and Environmental Science, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Finnish Environment Institute SYKEHelsinkiFinland

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