Glossary of Ecosystem Service Terms

These Terms are from the Ecosystem Services Community of Practice Website.  The list is intended define the variety of terms used in ecosystems service projects. They do not (as yet) represent the consensus, but rather help to provide a common language for communication of principles and approaches used in developing ecosystem services projects.  Please add to this list, or offer edits to help us develop a standard .  Please do not delete language rather strike-through abc or add your comments in brackets [...].  When possible add a source for your definition.  

Are there missing terms?  should we compare these terms with the TEEB glossary, the EPA Lexicon, the Millinneum Assessment Definitions?  Please add new terms/or alternative definitions below - please include a source for your additions.


Additionality – the concept that calls for credited ecosystem improvements to represent an overall increase in, or avoided reduction of, ecosystem services, relative to those services that would have existed without creating the credits (baseline). Would this pollution reduction have occurred without the trading provisions in place? If not, then it is “additional.” 


Aggregators – Private actors who develop contracts with sellers of credits (like farmers), bundle them together and offer them to buyers (like industry), saving the buyers the hassle of dealing with hundreds or thousands of individual farmers and ranchers.


Baseline – Inventory or status of land or resource prior to project implementation. Minimum conditions that must be met in order to be eligible for credit generation or trading.


BMP – Best Management Practices: refers to management techniques that farmers or foresters can adopt that lessen the impact of farming, forestry, or ranching on the environment


Broker – a licensed person or institution that buys and sells ecosystem service credits, or facilitates financial transactions between the buyers and sellers of credits. Brokers can be directly involved in the chain of ownership of credits.


Bundling or stacking credits – the creation of different credit types in the same geographic area. It allows landowners to market multiple ecological values at a single site, including those with and without specific geographic delineation.


Common currency market – allows for the generation and trade of a single, universal credit (such as an "ecosystem credit") that captures the value of broad ecological functions and values, through an agreed upon accounting tool, within a defined service area.


Compliance – Demand created by regulation


Credit Bank – A quasi-public entity that “holds” environmental credits generated by landowners and can provide these extra “emergency” credits to the market in case of credit failure due to extreme circumstances like massive flooding. Procedures to account for credit risks or reversals


Credit Calculator – A standardized tool (often spreadsheet software) developed to help market participants calculate how many credits are produced by projects and/or different types of restoration activities.


Credit definition – a single unit of trade that quantifies the provision (or right of use) of a regulated or non-regulated ecosystem service. Procedures for identifying what is being transacted (acre of habitat, metric ton of carbon, pound of nitrogen)


Credit Registry/Exchange – an institution or established repository that inventories and accounts for different ecosystem service credits available within a market or marketplace by documenting their generation, ownership, and trade. The tools and information necessary to complete and price transactions 


Ecosystem – A collection of plants, animals, and other living things interacting with each other and with their non-living environment.


Ecosystem Marketplace – Online venue connecting buyers and sellers, guiding price, and reducing transaction costs.


Ecosystem service markets – Systems which compensate landowners or other providers of ecosystem services through the provision of special benefits or the "pricing" of natural assets as a commodity that can be bought, banked, traded, or otherwise measured, accounted for, and/or assigned monetary value. Types of markets and payment mechanisms include public payments or targeted support services, private contracts or deals, tax incentives or subsidies, trading of rights or credits under a regulatory cap, and eco-labeling.


Ecosystem services – The benefits that people get from nature.


Ecosystem services approach – A framework by which ecosystem services are integrated into public and private decision-making.


Environmental goal – Procedures for determining environmental objective of project (e.g. setting caps)


Leakage – When the actions of one group to reduce pollution loads creates perverse incentives for others to increase loads. For example, leakage can occur when a piece of land or wetland set aside for preservation results in a different piece of land being cleared instead.


Market Governance – Who will be operating the market - roles and responsibilities. What organization or type of organization will be managing the market project after completion of initial grant? 


Market Supply – The availability of credits representing improvements and/or protection of scarce resources that drive markets


Minimizing externalities – Procedures for preventing and reducing unintended consequences


Monitoring – The periodic and systematic measurement and assessment of change of an indicator and/or performance over the life of a contract


Multi-credit marketplace – a market that allows for the generation and trade of multiple ecological values.


Outreach/marketing – Methods for raising market awareness among supply and demand and general public and policy makers


Pooled Projects – the total quantity of individual properties an aggregator represents. 


Pre-compliance – Demand driven by the pending threat of regulation in the (near) future. 


Project management – Tools and procedures for assisting suppliers develop and manage credit-generating projects. This includes procedures for providing technical assistance to suppliers


Project planning – Tools and procedures that help suppliers evaluate potential credit-generating projects, needed contracts/permits, current market demand, and other factors, such as need for conservation easements, liability, and ability to bundle with other markets.


Quantification of credits – Methods to determine how many credits are produced by projects 


Rules of sale – Procedures for establishing limits on transactions: credit ratios, limited geography (service area), minimum requirements, etc. 


Sellers of Ecosystem Market Credits – Private landowners (e.g. forest owners, agricultural producers, livestock producers). Regulated entities. Aggregators 


Supply Creation Strategy – Land management practices. Increasing efficiencies in production under a cap and trade 


Third-party certification – Procedures for neutral organizations to review process and verify net benefit


Total Maximum Daily Loads –  A calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still safely meet water quality standards (





Transaction Costs – The costs in addition to the actual cost of credits or compliance that is required to maintain the infrastructure that supports a trading market. 


Verification – confirmation that actions taken on the landscape produce the desired ecological benefits necessary for credit creation.


Voluntary Driven Demand – Payments deliver a return on investment (i.e. a business benefit). Payments are made for charity or philanthropic reasons (i.e. donations).