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Shared ecosystem services

April 2020: describes global or interregional ecosystem service flows between countries or regions. Understanding shared ecosystem services and global value flows could support the transition to more sustainable resource management practices and changed production and consumption patterns.


Ecosystems often reach across borders, leading to shared ecosystem services between regions or countries. These global or interregional ecosystem service flows are known as telecoupling and reflect on economic relationships as well as biological and geographical conditions of ecosystems. Researchers have analysed four different types of ecosystems flows to understand the interlinkages and environmental costs or benefits caused by domestic consumption of ecosystem services in other countries. These flows include (i) biophysical flows of traded goods (ii) flows mediated by migratory species such as migrating birds providing pest control (iii) passive biophysical flows such as flood control along transboundary watersheds and (iv) information flows.

Implications and opportunities

The study maps ecosystem value flows between regions which could support understanding shared ecosystem services. Understanding these links could support recognising the value of intact nature, identify global drivers of biodiversity loss or soil erosion between globally connected regions. In addition, the study could contribute to understanding how global consumption and production patterns or international trade influence ecosystems. It could inform policy makers in developing trade standards, certification schemes or financial compensation measures to encourage sustainable resource management practices.


The study analyses shared ecosystem services in Germany and the results should be seen within the context of their geographic and methodological limitations. Further research will be needed to provide in-depth analysis of shared ecosystem services in other regions.


Kleemann, J., et. Al. (2020). Quantifying interregional flows of multiple ecosystem services – A case study for Germany. Global Environmental Change, 61, 102051. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102051

Bonn, A. (2020). Ecosystem services are not constrained by borders. Retrieved from

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.