Putting the Ecosystem Services idea at work: Applications on impact assessment and territorial planning

Published in Environmental Development, v. 38:100570

Staiano, L., Camba Sans, G.H., Baldassini, P., Gallego, F., Texeira, M.A., Paruelo, J.M.

Publication year 2021
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envdev.2020.100570

Laboratorio de Análisis Regional y Teledetección (LART), IFEVA, CONICET, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Av. San Martín, 4453, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Departamento de Métodos Cuantitativos y Sistemas de Información, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Av. San Martín, 4453, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Instituto de Ecología y Ciencias Ambientales, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Iguá, 4225, Montevideo, Uruguay
Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agropecuaria (INIA), Estación Experimental La Estanzuela, Ruta 50 km 11, Colonia, Uruguay

IAI Program


Sebastián Aguiar, Paula Torré Zaffaroni, Lucio Biancari and Micaela Freire made valuable comments and suggestions that improved our paper. This research was supported by Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Argentina), Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina) and by the CSIC group (N° 433) project of Universidad de la República (Uruguay). This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) CRN III 3095, which is supported by the US National Science Foundation (Grant GEO-128040).

IAI Project CRN3095


- The Ecosystem Services Supply Index provide a synoptic description across different land uses and management practices.
- New empirical evidence show ESSI such a good estimator of Ecosystem Services supply.
- ESSI was incorporated in decision-making providing elements for territorial planning.
- ESSI helped to better define interventions in both management decisions and environmental conflicts.


South America is experiencing profound land use and land cover changes. Their consequences on the Ecosystem Services (ES) supply and human well-being need to be diagnosed and monitored in order to support informed decisions both in management and territorial planning. The ES concept provides a key framework to evaluate human impacts on nature. The use of spatially explicit indicators able to characterize ES supply can turn operative the ES framework, enabling for sustainability assessment. The Ecosystem Services Supply Index (ESSI) is a synoptic indicator that estimates and maps supporting and regulating ES related to water and carbon dynamics from data provided by remote sensors of free access and wide spatial coverage. The ESSI merges two attributes of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) annual dynamics: the annual average (NDVIMEAN, a proxy of total C gains) and the intra-annual coefficient of variation (NDVICV, an indicator of seasonality). In this article we proposed two objectives: 1) to describe the conceptual foundation of the ESSI and to gather the empirical support that shows its ability to explain the spatial-temporal variation in different ES, and to present a new case of empirical ESSI assessment, and 2) to synthesize the contribution of the ESSI in socio ecosystem diagnosis, monitoring and territorial planning stages in 8 existing cases of application. We also explored the links to the decision-making process by diverse stakeholders including local research and development institutions, NGOs and government agents. Cases corresponded to a wide range of situations from humid and dry forests to grasslands, and from local to subcontinental scales in southern South America. We found that ESSI was successfully applied for diagnosis, planning and monitoring processes which helped to better define interventions in management decisions and also to empower the most vulnerable stakeholders under territorial and environmental conflicts.