Mapping of ecosystem services: Missing links between purposes and procedures

Published in Ecosystem Services, v. 13:162-172

Nahuelhual, L., Laterra, P., Villarino, S.H., Mastrangelo, M.E., Carmona, A., Jaramillo, A., Barral, P. and Burgos, N.

Publication year 2015
  • Instituto de Economía Agraria, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile
  • Fundación Centro de los Bosques Nativos, FORECOS, Casilla 435, Valdivia, Chile
  • Centro para la Investigación del Clima y la Resiliencia (CR2), Departamento de Geofísica, Universidad de Chile, Blanco Encalada 2002, 4 Piso, Santiago, Chile
  • Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata &ndash INTA Balcarce, Casilla 276, 7620 Balcarce, Argentina
  • Fundación Bariloche, Avenida Bustillos 9500, R8402 AGP, San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
  • Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina
  • Programa de Magister en Ciencias, Mención Recursos Hídricos, Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile
  • Programa de Magister en Desarrollo Rural, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile


IAI Program


IAI Project CRN3095


•The diversity of mapping approaches questions the utility of maps.

•The correspondence between maps׳ purposes and mapping procedures is evaluated.

•Results reveal a general weak relation between map purpose and methods used.

•Features of methodological approaches are proposed to improve mapping techniques.


The literature on ecosystem services mapping presents a diversity of procedures whose consistency might question the reliability of maps for decision-making. This study aims at analyzing the correspondence between the purpose of maps (e.g. land use planning) and the procedures used for mapping (e.g. benefit transfer, ecological transfer). Fifty scientific studies published between 2005 and 2012 were selected and analyzed according to 19 variables, applying independence tests over contingency tables, ANOVA and regression analysis. The results show that most studies declared a decision-making purpose (82%), which in 50% of the cases, was land use planning. Only few relationships were found between variables selected to describe the purpose of the maps and those selected to describe the mapping procedures. Thus for example, maps aimed at supporting land use planning did not include any level of stakeholder participation or scenario analysis, as it would have been expected given this purpose. Likewise, maps were based on either economic value or biophysical transfers, regardless of the spatial and temporal scales of mapping. This generally weak relation between map׳s purposes with the used procedures could explain the still restricted incidence of ES on decision-making by limiting the transmission, comparison and synthesis of results.