Ecosystem Services

Preserving biodiversity means
guaranteeing our livelihoods
and quality of life

(Energia, Alimentos...)
(Habitats, CIima, Água...)
(Aprendizagem, Identidade...)

Ecosystem services are the benefits that human populations obtain from ecosystems.

From pollination to reducing the risk of fire and soil erosion, to improving air and water quality, nature (and all biodiversity) plays a fundamental role in human survival. This role, or roles, are known as ecosystem services or environmental services.

Ecosystem services are thus the benefits that human populations obtain from ecosystems.

Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services

The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) is a system that seeks to categorise ecosystem services accurately. The CICES system has organised the different types of ecosystem services into three main “Sections”:

  • supply services

  • regulation and maintenance services o

  • cultural services

distinguishing them in terms of their biotic or abiotic origin.

The CICES classification further subdivides ecosystem services into “Division”, “Group” and “Class”.





Recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services adopted a new classification, Nature’s Contributions to People (NCP)

This classification is broader and more inclusive, recognising the existence of different cultures and subjectivity. PCNs are all of nature’s contributions (positive and negative) to people’s quality of life.

There are 18 NCPs which, in turn, are organised into three groups (regulatory, material and non-material), according to the type of contribution they make to people’s quality of life:

European strategy for assessing ecosystems and their services

The European Biodiversity Strategy 2020 has developed a common strategy for assessing ecosystems and their services, called Mapping and Assessment on Ecosystems and their Services (MAES), so that all EU Member States can assess and map them.

As Biosphere Reserves are very important areas for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, under the project “Biosphere Reserves. Sustainable territories, resilient communities”, all the ecosystems present in the 12 Portuguese Biosphere Reserves have been mapped:

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Assessing the condition of ecosystems is fundamental to identifying priority areas for intervention

The condition of an ecosystem is defined as the quality of an ecosystem measured in terms of its biotic and abiotic characteristics, and takes into account its capacity for maintenance and integrity, regulated by natural processes.

Ecosystems in good condition provide more and better services to people.

The condition of the ecosystems in Portuguese Biosphere Reserves was assessed using chemical, biophysical and biological indicators, in accordance with the MAES approach and the availability and accessibility of data for these territories. This condition assessment and its mapping made it possible to identify priority areas for intervention (i.e. low condition) and conservation (high condition), which is essential for implementing and applying conservation and action measures adapted to each territory.

Participatory Strategies

Involving local actors (stakeholders) in the assessment of ecosystem services and in decision-making leads to more equitable and sustainable results, and facilitates the development of effective environmental management strategies and conservation plans.

To this end, in order to identify the key ecosystem services of Portuguese Biosphere Reserves, participatory workshops were held with Biosphere Reserve managers and different stakeholders (such as farmers, tourism entrepreneurs, local and national government bodies, researchers, among others). These activities also aimed to identify the main threats and opportunities for ecosystem services, and to find strategies for valuing these services.

There were also participatory activities open to the general public (open day) in order to strengthen civil intervention in the ecosystem services mapping process.


Environmental education is fundamental to preparing aware and informed citizens and promoting values and changes in behavior towards the environment.

Therefore, with the aim of disseminating and deepening knowledge, awareness-raising activities are carried out in the 12 Portuguese Biosphere Reserves, generally with children between the ages of 8 and 12.

Using a mapping game, the children learn about the concept of ecosystem services (based on the Nature’s Contributions to People classification) and share their perspectives in an active and inclusive way.

Schools are also invited to join the community of Biokeepers and become Ambassadors for the Portuguese Biosphere Reserves.

Contributing to the well-being of communities and nature conservation

Being a Biokeeper means visiting, valuing local heritage and products, supporting educational services, taking part in nature preservation and conservation projects or just getting to know Portugal’s Biosphere Reserves. Join this community and become an Ambassador.

Contributing to the well-being of communities and nature conservation
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