Integrated Ecosystem Assessments

Integrated ecosystem assessments is one of several mainstreaming tools that is available in the PEI programmatic approach in recognition that assessments can act as a bridge between science and policy by providing scientific information on the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being. Assessment findings, when presented in a readily digestible form, can respond to decision makers’ needs for credible information, highlight trade-offs between decision options, and model future prospects to avoid unforeseen long-term consequences.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) (2005) offers a framework for demonstrating connections between ecosystem services to sustain people’s livelihoods and national economies, and for quantifying their value in monetary terms where possible. An ecosystem assessment provides the connection between environmental issues and people, where ecosystem services include: provisioning services such as providing food, water, timber and fibre; regulating services such as the regulation of climate, floods, disease, wastes and water quality; cultural services such as offering recreational, aesthetic and spiritual benefits; and, supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling.   As a follow-up to the MA, which drew on national and regional ecosystem assessments, a number of practitioner guidelines and manuals were produced on conducting integrated ecosystem assessments and more recently the “Ecosystem and Human Well-Being; A Manual for Assessment Practitioners”.

PEI has provided support to integrated assessments through regional training of practitioners and technical support to PEI country programmes to undertake an integrated ecosystem assessment. In all cases, focus has been on grounding the ecosystem assessments with a known need identified by decision makers, involving the best available scientists from a range of disciplines, subjecting the assessment findings to rigorous review, and applying the generic methodological steps of 1) assessment of conditions and trends in ecosystems and their services (according to social, economic and environmental variables), 2) development of future scenarios as a consequence of plausible changes in driving forces, ecosystem services and human well-being, 3) formulation of response options for improved management of ecosystems for human well-being and pro-poor economic growth.

Increasingly PEI is emphasising the economic valuation of ecosystem services as an important tool within the integrated assessment process to enable monetary analysis as requested by decision-makers. Similarly, participatory processes enabling effective participation of all stakeholders including vulnerable groups as well as private sector operators are being applied. Lastly PEI supports more rapid application of the process which does not compromise on the credibility, relevance and legitimacy of the assessment.

Looking forwards, PEI will support countries expressing demand for rapid integrated assessments that provide credible science-based analysis to inform future scenario modelling and recommend response actions to national or sub-national development plans.  


Achievements and Highlights

Thailand:   Led by the National Planning Unit of the Ministry of Interior, as part of the PEI Thailand country programme, an integrated assessment has been conducted in three sites at different watershed locations (upper, middle and lower) in Nan, Khon Kaen and Samut Songhan Provinces respectively. The assessments aimed to inform decision-makers in coming up with community and provincial development options that will bring about economic improvement with minimum negative impact on the environment and natural resource base. An integral component is also to strengthen capacity of national institutions in carrying out assessments and to make use of findings to inform decision makers. As a result of the assessment Provincial and local administrations now make better use of area-based development planning tools (spatial planning, community based research, and payments for ecosystem services). For exampel, in Nan province, the Provincial Administration has been supported to better manage corn-based livestock farming through investments in watershed management and more secure land tenure.  More information can be found at and PEI Thailand.

Guatemala:  The Ecosystem Assessment is looking at the “corredor seco” (Dry corridor) in eastern Guatemala in particular the key watersheds emanating from the Sierra de la Minas that support key agricultural subsistence and export production systems. The assessment aims to inform provincial and municipal development plans through scenario analysis and response options that aim to bring about inclusive economic improvement for all peoples with minimum negative impact on the natural resource base.  

Mali: An integrated ecosytem assessment was completed in the Mopti region, eastern Mali, in 2009. Led by the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation, the assessment served to highlight the importance of ecosystem services in particular wetlands for agriculture production and the effects of degradation. The report was presented to local authorities to inform local development plants and training of trainers was undertaken.  Legal arrangements for institutionalizing the use of a Strategic Environmental Assessment approach to green policy documents is being put in place.

Mauritania, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda: Integrated ecosystem assessment were undertaken between 2005 and 2011 in specific locations, all centred around watercatchments and wetlands, to inform sub-national and national development processes, each with varying degrees of success. A rapid independent evaluation of the ecosystem assessments in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda (December 2008) was conducted in 2008 by the World Resources Institute. The evaluation findings concentrated on how the ecosystem assessment methodologies could be better tailored to provide information relevant to the policy processes that are the object of PEI’s P-E mainstreaming efforts, especially reviewing capacity building and knowledge transfer, the assessment process and the methodology. The lessons learned helped guiding the following assessments.

Key Documents


Asia Pacific

Latin America and the Caribbean