The scientific research on ecosystem services: A bibliometric analysis

Valentina H. Pauna, Flavio Picone, Gianpiero Le Guyader, Elvira Buonocore, Pier Paolo Franzese



The scientific research on ecosystem services (ES) has grown substantially over the past ten years, making more evident the vital role played by natural ecosystems in support of human economy and well-being. Several studies showed that biodiversity represents a fundamental part of the Earth’s life support system. Biodiversity considerably affects ecosystem functioning while contributing to the provision of different types of ES. The increasing ecological awareness of scientists, citizens, and policy makers on the importance of natural capital stocks and ES flows boosted nature conservation strategies and the development of more environmental friendly production processes. In this study, we explored the global scientific literature on ES over the last thirty years. The software VOSviewer was used to create maps based on network data of scientific publications displaying relationships among scientific journals, researchers, and countries. Specific keywords were finally used to explore the co-occurrence of different terms connected to the research on ES. Results show that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment had a major impact on the scientific literature dealing with the ES concept. The top country researching on ES was USA, while the top journal was Ecological Economics. In terms of co-occurrence, the top keywords were “biodiversity”, “management”, “conservation”, and “climate change”. This study identified the main research areas characterizing the scientific literature on ES. Social network analysis and maps based on network data make possible the application of systems thinking in bibliometric science. This type of analysis allows for the investigation of research development in specific fields of science, capturing the interdisciplinarity of research topics crossing the boundary of specific disciplines, as it is the case of ES.


Ecosystem services; bibliometric analysis; VOSviewer; social network analysis

Full Text:



Chen, D., Liu, Z., Luo, Z., Webber, M., Chen, J. (2016). Bibliometric and visualized analysis of emergy research. Ecological Engineering, 90, 285-293.

Costanza, R., D’Arge, R., de Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., van den Belt, M. (1997). The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387 (6630), 253–260.

Costanza, R., de Groot, R., Braat, L., Kubiszewski, I., Fioramonti, L., Sutton, P., Grasso, M. (2017). Twenty years of ecosystem services: How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? Ecosystem Services, 28, 1–16.

Daily, G.C. (1997). Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems. Island Press, Washington D.C.

Díaz, S., Demissew, S., Carabias, J., Joly, C., Lonsdale, M., Ash, N., Zlatanova, D. (2015). The IPBES Conceptual Framework - connecting nature and people. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 14, 1–16.

Ehrlich, P.R., Ehrlich, A.H. (1981). Extinction: the causes and consequences of the disappearance of species. Random House, New York.

Haines-Young, R., Potschin, M. (2013). Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES), Version 4.3. Report to the European Environment Agency EEA/BSS/07/007. Retrieved from:

MA (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Multiscale Assessments. Findings of the Sub-Global Assessments Working Groups. Island Press, Washington, DC.

Maes J., Teller A., Erhard M., Liquete C., Braat L., Berry P., et al. (2013). Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. An analytical framework for ecosystem assessments under action 5 of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. Publications office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Potschin, M., Haines-Young, R. (2016). Defining and measuring ecosystem services. In: Potschin, M., Haines-Young, R., Fish, R., Turner, R.K. (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services. Routledge, London and New York, pp. 25–44.

Reuters, T. (2008). Whitepaper Using Bibliometrics : Thomson Reuters, 12.

TEEB (2010). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB.

Van Eck, N.J., Waltman, L. (2014). Visualizing bibliometric networks. In Y. Ding, R. Rousseau, & D. Wolfram (Eds.), Measuring scholarly impact: Methods and practice, pp. 285–320. Springer.

Van Eck, N.J., Waltman, L. (2018). Manual for VOSviewer version 1.6.8. CWTS Meaningful Metrics. Universiteit Leiden.

Zou, X., Long, W., Le, H. (2018). Visualization and analysis of mapping knowledge domain of road safety studies. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 118, 131–145.

Partnerzy platformy czasopism