Successful ecosystem services assessments are well-adapted to their context and to the information needs of their intended audience. Therefore, timing, stakeholder involvement, and assessment design must be carefully considered. Additional tools in the Methods Database can help at various stages of analysis: For scoping ecosystem services, for understanding the socio-economic and the ecological contexts and for making use of results.
What exactly is the policy issue to be addressed? Which are the relevant ecosystem services? What is their role for society or for the regional economy? Who is dependent on which services? When scoping ecosystem services, questions like these help gain clarity about the thematic focus, geographic scope and practical purpose of a future assessment.
The Methods Navigator proposes ten different practical purposes for doing an assessment, the '6 Steps' provide guidance on how to clarify purpose, procedures and design of an assessment. And in the Methods Database you can filter for tools designed to scope ecosystem services.
Assessing ecosystem services - their state, trends, or importance - is impossible without understanding their context. 'Context' means the socio-economic system and the ecosystem. The 'socio-economic system' includes people, their relationships, and the rules which govern their livelihood activities. A basic understanding of the socio-economic system allows you to grasp the demand side of ecosystem services: who benefits from or depends on which services, where and why?
'Ecosystem' refers to the natural processes between plants, animals, climate, water, soils, and people. A basic understanding of the ecosystem allows to you grasp the supply-side: How are ecosystem services being provided? Where? And what will be the consequence of a change, for instance in land use patterns?
A better understanding of both of these systems facilitates more precise assessment design, and the more insightful, correct and relevant conclusions.
Some assessment methods include consideration of context, while in other cases, complementary tools are needed. Obviously, there are very multiple valid ways to ensure a clear understanding of context.