Mapping Ecosystem Services to Human Well-being: a toolkit to support integrated landscape management for the SDGs

Justin A. Johnson, Sarah K. Jones, Sylvia L.R. Wood, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Peter L. Hawthorne, Mark Mulligan, Derric Pennington, Fabrice A. DeClerck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize the global and multi-dimensional nature of sustainability and thus require improving our capacity to articulate and trace the impact of ecosystem change to measures of human well-being. Yet, the integrated nature of these goals is challenging to assess without similarly integrated assessment tools. We present a new modeling toolkit, “Mapping Ecosystem Services to Human well-being” (MESH), that integrates commonly used, stand-alone ecosystem services (ES) models from the InVEST suite of models to quantify and illustrate the trade-offs and synergies across five ecosystem services and up to 10 associated SDGs. Development of the software and its functionality were informed by a broad stakeholder consultation with ministries, non-governmental organizations and civil society groups in West Africa to identify common barriers to uptake and application of modeling tools in developing countries. In light of this process, key features included in MESH are (1) integration of multiple ecosystem service (ES) models into a common modeling framework supported by a curated base data set, (2) built-in scenario generation capacity to support policy analysis, (3) visualization of outcomes and trade-offs, and (4) mapping of ecosystem service change to SDG targets and goals. We illustrate the use of MESH in a case study in the Volta basin of West Africa comparing the effectiveness of three alternative conservation prioritization approaches: (1) land cover-based, (2) topographic-based, and (3) an ecosystem service-based approach to minimize the impact of agricultural expansion. We evaluate these approaches by linking changes in service supply to potential impacts on achievement of specific SDG goals and targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01985
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J. A. Johnson, S. K. Jones, and S. L. R. Wood are first joint co-authors of this work. This work was made possible under a joint funding agreement managed by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) from the CGIAR research programs on Water Land and Ecosystems, and Policies, Institutions and Markets (F. A. DeClerck and S. K. Jones) with additional support from The Nature Conservancy (J. A. Johnson), and the Christensen Fund (S. L. R. Wood). We particularly would like to thank the 22 research scientists whom contributed to early discussions on the project as well as to the government and Non-governmental organization officials in West and East Africa whom shared their time and experience in evaluating the functional capabilities of MESH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the Ecological Society of America


  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Volta basin
  • ecosystem services
  • landscape management
  • modeling
  • trade-offs


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