ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Ecosystems Services

Archive : this SRA ceased as a separate research area in 2013

Led by Prof Gary Luck

  • About
  • Issues
  • Members
  • Outcomes
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Postgrad Research


The aim of this SRA is to quantify and attach a value to environmental services and the ecosystems that produce these services in regional Australia.

Overview of the SRA (pdf)

"The air we breathe, the water we drink, the peaceful vistas we look upon and the nutrients we consume are all to a great degree provided to us by our environment. Unfortunately, it's only when we degrade that environment that we start to appreciate what we have destroyed- and what we have lost. The goal of our research on ecosystem services is to generate some understanding of the value of our ecosystems before we consume them in the hope that we will make better decisions about the use of our environment in the future." - Dr Rod Duncan


"Ecosystem services" is the term used to describe the services provided by our natural ecosystems.  These services include the cleaning of water and dispersal of pollutants provided by our rivers, the cycling of nutrients accomplished by our soils and streams, the preservation of biodiversity by our native habitats, the provision and maintenance of areas of natural beauty and many other services of value to humans created by our environment.

Environmental services are rarely traded in markets. Because there is no explicit market price for these environmental services, or the ecosystems that produce the environmental services, ecosystem services tend to be undervalued.  When decisions are made in communities, the impact of these decisions on environmental assets is often not taken into account because little explicit value is placed on the value of environmental assets to community welfare.

But simply because these ecosystem services do not have a monetary value attached to them does not mean that these services have no value for humans.  Ecosystem services research is an effort to attach monetary values to the services provided by our environment and so lead to improved decision-making about our environment.


Members Expertise
Dr Roderick Duncan Economic valuation and economic modelling
Prof Max Finlayson Biodiversity; ecosystem services and wetlands ecology
Prof Gary Luck Biodiversity; ecosystem services; market-based instruments
Prof Mark Morrison Economic valuation; survey/instrument design; market-based instruments
Dr Julia Howitt Water quality and management
Manu Saunders, PhD student Pollination services in agriculture


Key outcomes or examples of how the work of this SRA has made a difference include:

A four year (2009-2013) ARC Future Fellowship (recipient was Professor Gary Luck) has resulted in a number of outcomes.

  • The new methods for identifying spatial priorities for protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity will be of great benefit to NGOs or government organisations attempting to balance environmental needs with those of human communities. The information from the practical applications will lead to better land-use planning, limit biodiversity losses, and ensure there is minimal disruption to the provision of key services like food or water provision. These methods, now being applied in Nepal, will greatly improve community forest management through identifying threats and stresses to particular forests, which forests to target for particular services, and how demand for services may threaten biodiversity conservation (and hence require changes in land management or provision of alternatives to local communities). Global NGOs like WWF are also adopting these methods to identify priorities for protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services globally. This will guide future investments by this organisation.
  • The research on ecosystem services provided by animals has the potential to yield substantial benefits to agriculturalists if they manage their landscapes in such a way as to promote species that can provide services such as pollination and pest control.
  • The work on the services that biodiversity provides humans has significant cultural and social implications and will help guide future research and management of ecosystem services without undermining moral or ethical reasons for protecting nature.

A project benchmarking values and attitudes to conservation in the Great Eastern Ranges (2009-2011) has identified different types of lifestyler segments which has led to changed communication practices within the Hawkesbury Nepean CMA.

A workshop organised by ILWS and CSIRO held in Canberra in 2011 focussed on eco-systems services in the Murray-Darling Basin led to researchers from CSIRO and the Institute contributed to a 'Multiple Benefits of the MDBA Basin Plan project which included an outline of some of the ecosystems services benefits to Basin Communities. The project report and resulting paper was cited in the Regulatory Impact Statement that was tabled in parliament. The South Australian Government has also used these research findings in their response to the MDB water sharing plan



Luck, G.W., Chan, K.M.A. & Fay, J.P. (2009). Protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity in the world's watersheds. Conservation Letters 2, 179-88.

Luck, G.W., Kremen, C., Harrington, R., Harrison, P.A. (2009).  Response to Sagoff – The economic value of ecosystem services. BioScience 59, 461-62.

Luck, G.W., Harrington, R., Harrison, P.A., Kremen, C., Berry, P.M., Bugter, R., Dawson, T.P., de Bello, F., Díaz, S., Feld, C.K., Haslett, J.R., Hering, D., Kontogianni, A., Lavorel, S., Rounsevell, M., Samways, M.J., Sandin, L., Settele, J., Sykes, M.T., van den Hove, S., Vandewalle, M. and Zobel, M. (2009). Quantifying the Contribution of Organisms to the Provision of Ecosystem Services. BioScience 59, 223-35.

de Groot, R., Finlayson, M., Verschuuren, B., Ypma, O. & Zylstra, M. (2008) Integrated assessment of wetland services and values as a tool to analyse policy trade-offs and management options: A case study in the Daly and Mary River catchments, Northern Australia. Supervising Scientist Report 198, Supervising Scientist, Darwin NT.

Morrison, M. and Bennett, J. (2006). Valuing New South Rivers Using Benefit Transfer. In Rolfe, J. and Bennett, J. (Eds). Choice Modelling and the Transfer of Environmental Values. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham

Morrison, M. and Bergland, O. (2006). Prospects for the Use of Choice Modelling for Benefit Transfer. Ecological Economics. 60: 420-428.

Finlayson, C.M., D'Cruz R. & Davidson N.J. (2005). Ecosystem services and human well-being: water and wetlands synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington DC, USA.

Ricketts, T.H., Dinerstein, E., Boucher, T., Brooks, T.M., Butchart, S.H.M., Hoffmann, M., Lamoreux, J., Morrison, J., Parr, M., Pilgrim, J.D., Rodrigues, A.S.L., Sechrest, W., Wallace, G.E., Berlin, K., Bielby, J., Burgess, N., Church, D.R., Knox, D., Loucks, C., Luck, G.W., Master, L., Naidoo, R., Ridgely, R., Schatz, G., Shire, G., Strand, H., Wettengel, W. & Wikramanayake, E. (2005). Pinpointing and preventing imminent extinctions. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 102, 18497-501.

Morrison, M. and Bennett, J. Valuing NSW Rivers Using Choice Modelling for Use in Benefit Transfer (2004). Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics. 48(1): 591-612.

Postgrad Research


Research Topic

Manu Saunders Pollinator insects and ecosystem function in commercial almond orchards
Shannon Triplett The costs and benefits of birds in almond orchards in Victoria, Australia
John McLaughlin Conservation ecology of the Regent Parrot in an agricultural landscape
Eak Rana Ecosystem Service Trade-offs in Forest Commons: A Case Study from Community Forests in Central Himalaya, Nepal
Ashlea Hunter Investigating the link between social and ecological benefits of urban green space
Buyani Thomy Valuing the Benefits of Improved River Health