Ecosystem services valuation

Published: 11 August 2015
Last edited: 26 October 2020

Quantifying the value of ecosystem services provided by mangroves to the local communities is a required component of blue carbon projects. This informs the design of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes. As a full valuation is challenging and costly, priority services are chosen through a participatory consultation process with local communities. Raw data are collected locally and mined through bibliographic searches and interviews. Results emphasize the importance of coastal-marine ecosystems with decision makers, as mangrove losses can be explained as capital losses.


Collection of baseline and monitoring data and knowledge
Management planning
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution
Inception phase

Enabling factors

The availability of local and national data is a determining factor for an adequate valuation of ecosystem services. Even when those data are not available relationships with local officials may provide useful expert criteria and inputs. Also, the participation of the communities in the diagnostics to identify and later quantify priority services is important to guarantee their buy-in into the process. A clear understanding of local livelihoods is also necessary.

Lessons learned

Local perceptions of what constitutes a “priority” ecosystem service for valuation may differ from that of project developers and researchers. In addition, data constraints may limit the extent of the valuation study. It may thus be necessary to negotiate with locals during the preliminary diagnostics phase what services meet their needs and those of the project, and which can be valued. The wide range of services provided by mangroves and surrounding coastal-marine ecosystems make a full valuation exercise very challenging. Thus, most valuation studies are partial and depend on a set of assumptions and a variety of different methods. Good working relationships with government representatives in charge of data processing and archiving, as well as a solid understanding of the details of the local livelihoods and business models is highly advantageous, which is why a livelihoods study should be conducted in parallel.