Ecosystem services/Data uncertainties limitations

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Ecosystem Services model in IMAGE 3.0
Flowchart Ecosystem services. See also the Input/Output Table on the introduction page.

Data, uncertainty and limitations


Availability of data to relate land use and landscape characteristics to ecosystem services are still scarce and fragmented. For this reason, several services are represented by parameters from the IMAGE core module without modification, such as crop and livestock production, water availability, carbon sequestration, erosion risk, and flood risk.

For other services, additional relationships were developed. These relationships, for example for pollination and pest control, are based on a limited number of studies.

Uncertainties and limitations

To determine ecosystems services on a global scale, global land cover maps are used. These maps illustrate the spatial distribution of land cover, but the coarse resolution means that small landscape elements and minor land cover types are poorly represented (Schulp and Alkemade, 2011). In the relatively large grid cells used in this module, the major land cover types dominate minor land cover types. Especially linear landscape elements, such as ditch banks and tree rows, disappear because of aggregation of land cover data (Moody and Woodcock, 1996).

This geometric uncertainty influences many ecosystem services because many are influenced by the land cover type. This is the case with pollination, pest control and erosion because they are heavily influenced by linear landscape elements. This uncertainty may lead to underestimation of the supply of pollination, pest control, and erosion.