In 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) demonstrated that 24 of Earth’s critical life-support systems are in decline. This one-time assessment, however, gave no indication of how ecosystem services were changing on shorter time-scales and what has happened since. Governments are calling for ecosystem-service data to inform national accounts and guide conservation policy. Yet despite growing awareness of human dependence on nature, we still have no centralized monitoring system for detecting and reporting on global ecosystem service change. The Global Earth Observation Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) has taken the lead on establishing such a monitoring system for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

We are working with GEO BON to set up their biodiversity and ecosystem service monitoring system. Our efforts include: defining what essential variables should be monitored (Pereira et al. 2013 Science), outlining potential monitoring strategies (Tallis et al. 2013 BioScience), and determining what could be monitored now versus where major data gaps remain (Karp et al. 2015 Global Environmental Change). Currently, we are developing a set of Essential Ecosystem Service Variables (EESVs) that could be monitored to track change in ecosystem service flows, benefits, and associated values over time.

es maps

Fig. 1: Global distribution of the percent change in ecosystem-service delivery from 1996-2005. Ecosystem service delivery increased in countries filled with light green to purple colors and declined in countries filled with yellow to red colors. Figure adapted from Karp et al. (2015) Global Environmental Change. 


  1. Balvanera, P., D.S. Karp, N. Ash, E. Bennett, R. Boumans, C. Brown, K. Chan, R. Chaplin Kramer, B.S. Halpern, J. Hony-Roses, C.K. Kim, W. Cramer, M.J. Martínez-Harms, H. Mooney, T. Mwampamba, J. Nel, S. Polasky, S. Quijas, B. Reyers, J. Roman, R.J. Scholes, H. Tallis, K. Thonicke, F. Villa, M. Walpole, and A. Walz. (In Press) Ecosystem Services. In: GEO Handbook on Biodiversity Observation Networks.
  2. Karp, D.S., H. Tallis, R. Sachse, B. Halpern, K. Thonicke, W. Cramer, B. Tietjen, H. Mooney, S. Polasky, B. Tietjen, K. Waha, A. Walz, and S. Wolny. (2015) National indicators for observing ecosystem service change. Global Environmental Change 35: 12-21.
  3. Pereira, H., S. Ferrier, M. Walters, G. Geller, R. Jongman, R. Scholes, M. Bruford, N. Brummit, S. Butchart, A. Cardoso, N. Coops, E. Dulloo, D. Faith, J. Freyhof, R. Gregory, C. Heip, R. Hoft, G. Hurtt, W. Jetz, D.S. Karp, M. McGeoch, D. Obura, Y. Onoda, N. Pettorelli, B. Reyers, R. Sayre, J. Scharlemann, S. Stuart, E. Turak, M. Walpole, and M. Wegmann. (2013) Essential biodiversity variables for global earth observation. Science 339: 277-278.
  4. Tallis, H., H. Mooney, S. Andelman, P. Balvanera, W. Cramer, D.S. Karp, S. Polasky, B. Reyers, T. Ricketts, S. Running, K. Thonicke, B. Tietjen, and A. Walz (2012) A global system for monitoring ecosystem service change. BioScience 62: 977-986.