Skip links and keyboard navigation

How are beneficiaries classified?

Classifying beneficiaries can help decision makers measure and map the benefits provided by an ecosystem and better understand the relationship between beneficiaries and the environment[4]. An assumption for classifying beneficiaries is that the ecosystem components, processes, and services are already known/understood (see the Whole-of-System, Values-Based Framework (The Framework)).

Drone footage of pastures in the Plane Catchment Photo by Reef Catchments

Quick facts

The ecosystem services field
depends on data and results being shared and readily understood by several disciplines such as ecologists, economists, accountants, planners, social scientists and policy makers[2].

Why and how are beneficiaries classified?

Beneficiaries can be classified using ecosystem classification systems[2], such as the Final Ecosystem Goods and Services Framework (FEGS)[4] or the National Ecosystem Services Classification System Plus (NESCS Plus)[5]. The FEGS Framework uses a coding system to identify and organise biophysical attributes of ecosystems (e.g. final endpoints) that are of greatest relevance to people who care about or depend on those ecosystems (e.g. beneficiaries). The FEGS Framework identifies overarching and sub-categories of beneficiaries that are intended to be mutually exclusive[7]. It is important to note that FEGS are the final end-product provided by the environment that a beneficiary interacts with and often require some amount of labour/capital goods for the benefit to be realised[4] (Figure 1). There are varying levels of labour/capital goods required to produce a benefit from a FEGS[4]. The FEGS Framework also does not value a FEGS, but instead identifies who (e.g. the beneficiary) may receive a benefit from a FEGS[4]. See Wetland services and values for more information about values.

Figure 1. An example of the process from when a FEGS is produced by the environment to when a benefit is received by a beneficiary. Adapted from Landers and Nahlik (2013)

The overarching and sub-categories of beneficiaries derived from the FEGS Framework and NESCS Plus have been used to inform the table below. This is because the FEGS Framework and NESCS Plus provide a direct link to other classification systems for ecosystem services (in addition to being a classification system itself), such as the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES v5.1), and explicitly identify potential beneficiaries for a service, where other service classification frameworks do not. The FEGS Framework is also the most frequently used classification system for identifying beneficiaries and informs the list of categories used by NESCS Plus.[2][4][8][5].

The table below lists the overarching categories for beneficiaries who value final services provided by wetlands and aquatic ecosystems and is adapted from the Matrix Summary of Beneficiaries from the FEGS Framework (pg. 44[4]). The examples provided for wetlands in the FEGS Framework are not comprehensive (see the 12. Wetlands Appendix in the FEGS Framework (pg. 52)[4]), therefore, the beneficiaries included in the table below align with the Queensland Wetlands Program’s definition of wetlands and with the services outlined on the What services do wetlands perform? page. Further, it is important to note that what may be a FEGS for one beneficiary (e.g. water temperature for an aquaculturist) may be an intermediary process (and therefore, not a FEGS) for a different beneficiary[1][5].


Example Beneficiary Sub-category

General Description of Beneficiary Category

Example beneficiary for wetlands/aquatic ecosystems


Irrigators interact with aquatic environments, as they consume water from aquatic environments for maintaining crops, often moving water through ditches and canals. Note that Farmers and Irrigators are different beneficiaries

An irrigator who uses wetland water for agricultural irrigation

Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) Operators*

This beneficiary raises large, dense populations of livestock in a confined area (whether indoors or outdoors).

A CAFO Operator who uses groundwater to water livestock

Livestock Grazers

This beneficiary uses the environment to graze livestock. Cultivated vegetation is NOT considered a FEGS. For agroecosystems, "planted" pastures only provide space and opportunity to grow feed (not the vegetation itself).

A livestock grazer who grazes livestock on wetland or aquatic plants    

Agricultural Processors*

This beneficiary primarily consumes water for washing edible products.

A processor who uses water from a wetland or aquatic ecosystem to wash fruits and vegetables.


Aquaculturists farm aquatic fauna, such as fish, shrimp, oysters, etc. Those who cultivate aquatic flora are accounted for under the Farmer Beneficiary SubCategory.

An aquaculturist who raises aquatic/wetland fauna in-situ (e.g. in a coastal lagoon) or ex-situ (e.g. in a laboratory)


Farmers may plant annual crops (e.g., corn, soybeans, rice) or introduce cultivars that produce perennial, long-term crops (e.g., hay, grapes, cranberries, watercress, Christmas trees). Note that Farmers and Irrigators are different beneficiaries.

A farmer who plants rice within wetlands


Foresters introduce tree cultivars and nurture those cultivars as they grow into trees, which are harvested. The rotation for the tree crops may be as short as 10 years or many decades.

A forester who grows melaleuca tea-tree plantations in wetlands for harvest of bark/leaves, etc.

Food extractors

Food extractors utilize the natural abundance of edible organisms (i.e., non-cultivated or bred) for commercial use or sale. Includes commercial and native hunters (if legal)^. In aquatic environments, this beneficiary has potential contact with water.


^ “Native hunters” refers to First Nations peoples hunting

A person who hunts ducks in wetlands to sell and make a profit

Timber, Fiber^, and Ornamental Extractors


^Spelling is verbatim

Timber, fiber, and ornamental extractors rely on the environment for products used or sold commercially. Only non-cultivated, renewable material (i.e., NOT oil, ore, gems, etc.) are considered FEGS.

A person who uses feathers collected from wetland birds to make art that is sold commercially

Industrial Processors*

Industrial processors primarily consume water for cooling, producing pulp, etc. The water has no contact with edibles.

A person who uses water from an aquatic ecosystem to cool machinery used for processing raw materials

Industrial Dischargers*

Industrial dischargers use the environment [only] for discharging water, material (i.e., sand and gravel, garbage), and emissions. Hydraulic fracking practices involve industrial discharge to groundwater.

A person who discharges water to wash mining materials into adjacent aquatic ecosystems (e.g. rivers, streams) or wetlands.

Financial providers

Finance and Insurance providers comprise establishments primarily engaged in financial transactions (transactions involving the creation, liquidation, or change in ownership of financial assets) and/or in facilitating financial transactions, such as through investing in projects.

A person who discharges water to wash mining materials into adjacent aquatic ecosystems (e.g. rivers, streams) or wetlands.

Electric and other Energy Generators*

This beneficiary relies on the environment for energy or placement of power generation structures, including dams, wind, water, or wave turbines, solar panels, geothermal systems, etc.

A person or institution may finance, insure or invest in any ecosystem service

Resource-dependent Businesses

Without the environment, this beneficiary would not have the opportunity for businesses, including marinas, stables, and ecotourism (e.g., rafting companies, hot air balloon companies, beach resorts, hot springs, ice hotels) - but not farm or forest land.

A person who runs an ecotourism business that leads kayak trips on a river/creek (e.g. Peterson Creek on the Atherton Tablelands) or a lacustrine wetland (e.g. Lake Eacham on the Atherton Tablelands)

Pharmaceutical and Food Supplement Suppliers

This beneficiary collects organisms from the wild that are used as or for the basis of pharmaceuticals or food supplements for commercial sale. This beneficiary relies on the natural abundance of target organisms.

A person who uses microalgae or algae harvested from wetlands to bioengineer new medicine or pharmaceuticals

Fur/Hide Trappers and Hunters

This beneficiary takes advantage of the natural abundance of fauna (i.e. not farm-raised or domesticated animals) for fur or hides for commercial use or sale.

A person who uses the fur/hides from feral rabbits captures in/near a wetland to make felt for commercial use or sale.

Municipal Drinking Water Plant Operators*

This beneficiary is responsible for providing water to a community and may do so by collecting water from rivers, reservoirs, lakes, wells, bays, or estuaries. Water is treated and distributed. Direct precip is not generally used as a water source.

A person/operator who provides drinking water to a community/city from a lake or groundwater

Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators

This beneficiary uses the environment [only] for discharging treated water.

A person/operator who discharges treated sewage wastewater to the aquatic environment.

Residential Property Owners

While changes in property value are not a FEGS, residential property owners are affected by the environment in which their property resides.

A person who owns a home overlooking an aquatic environment (e.g. coastal wetland, river, lake, ocean) receives well-being and mental health benefits (Blue Health).

Military/Coast Guard

The Military / Coast Guard relies on the environment for the placement of infrastructure (e.g. ports, bases, etc.) or conditions for training activities.

A military group (e.g. Australian Defence Force) who uses coastal wetlands/aquatic habitats for training purposes (e.g. Shoalwater Bay, Queensland).

Transporters of Goods*

This beneficiary uses the environment as a media to transport goods - specifically, via boats (e.g. barges), airplanes, and overland/off-road vehicles (e.g. quads)

A transporter who uses coastal waters to transport goods via boats and barges.

Transporters of People*

This beneficiary uses the environment as a media to transport people - specifically, via boats (e.g., cruise liners, ferries, tour boats), airplanes, and overland/offroad vehicles.

A transporter who uses coastal waters to transport people via boat (e.g. using a ferry from mainland Townsville to Magnetic Island, Australia).

Water Subsisters*

Water Subsisters rely on a natural source for drinking water and may use wells or cisterns for storage (i.e. they do not receive municipal drinking water). Water purity is important, as water is not or only minimally treated.

A person who is not connected to the municipal water grid may extract water suitable for drinking from a river or aquatic ecosystem or from the groundwater table

Food Subsisters

Food Subsisters use the natural abundance of [edible] flora, fungi, and fauna whether collecting, hunting, or fishing as a major supplement to their existence.

A hunter who hunts animals (e.g. ducks, pigs, rabbits) in or near aquatic ecosystems for food for survival

Timber, Fiber, and Fur / Hide Subsisters

This beneficiary relies on the natural abundance of timber, fiber, and [fauna for] fur / hide for survival. Timber, fiber, and fur / hide used for building material is accounted for in this category.

A person who collects sugar cane, wood, or other materials from wetlands/aquatic ecosystems to burn for warmth

Experiencers and Viewers

This beneficiary views and experiences the environment via an activity, such as scenery gazing, hiking, bird watching, botanizing, ice skating, rock climbing, flying kites, etc. This beneficiary does not have physical contact with water.

A person who birdwatches in a wetland

Food Pickers and Gatherers

This beneficiary recreationally picks or gathers from the natural abundance of [edible] flora, fungi, and some fauna (as long as it is not fished or hunted). This beneficiary has potential contact with water.

A First Nations person who collects edible pods, seeds, tubers (e.g. water chestnuts) to consume as bush tucker


This beneficiary is primarily interested in hunting mammals and fowl (not flora or fungi) recreationally (i.e. not for survival). In aquatic environments, this beneficiary has potential contact with water.

A person who recreationally hunts ferals (e.g. pigs, rabbits) or native animals (e.g. ducks) in a wetland or aquatic ecosystem


Anglers fish recreationally (i.e. not for survival) and include catch-and-release or catch-and-consume activities. Stocked fish are not a FEGS, as they are considered a human input. This beneficiary has potential contact with water.

A person who fishes recreationally for wild fish in an aquatic ecosystem (e.g. coastal wetland, lake, river, etc.)

Waders, Swimmers, and Divers

This beneficiary recreates in or under the water by either wading, swimming, or diving (i.e. snorkeling, SCUBA diving). By definition, this beneficiary has contact with water.

A person who swims or dives in an aquatic ecosystem


Boaters may use motorized (i.e. motorboats) or nonmotorized boats (i.e. canoes, kayaks, rafts) to recreate. This beneficiary has potential contact with water.

A person who uses a motorboat and/or nonmotorized boat on an aquatic ecosystem (e.g. coastal wetland, lake, river, etc.)

Spiritual and Ceremonial Participants and Participants of Celebration

This beneficiary uses the environment for spiritual, ceremonial, or celebratory purposes, such as harvest festivals, seafood festivals, Native American^ observances, religious rites (i.e. baptisms, weddings), personal growth, etc.


^Example is verbatim from FEGS-CS. Australians would use Australian First Nations examples instead

A person who uses wetland flora and fauna in sacred or religious ceremonies


A Traditional Owner who uses culturally important wetland plants for cultural purposes


Artists, amateur and professional, utilize the environment or their experience in the environment to produce art. This category may include writers, cinematographers, and recording artist among others.

A movie director who uses wetland vegetation as the backdrop for a movie

Educators and Students

This beneficiary includes both formal and self-taught educators and students. All parts of the environment are of interest.

A person who interacts with rocky headlands/aquatic ecosystems to learn about the environment


Researchers are interested in the environment for academic and applied purposes and as a group do not discriminate over which parts of the environment are of interest

A person who researches the hydrology of a wetland/aquatic ecosystem for furthering scientific knowledge about the hydrological cycle through peer-reviewed publications

People Who Care (Existence)

This non-use beneficiary believes it is important to preserve the environment because of a moral/ethical connection or for fear of unintended consequences.

A person who believes freshwater features associated with a culturally important river (e.g. Fitzroy River) should be preserved because they exist

People Who Care (Bequest/Option)

Option/Bequest non-use beneficiaries consider that they or future generations may visit or rely on the environment. This includes beneficiaries that value the traditional aspects or features of an activity or FEGS.

A person who considers that their children or other future generations may rely on freshwater features associated with a culturally important river (e.g. Fitzroy River)

All Humans

All humans includes everyone, regardless of whether they actively recognize or appreciate the FEGS, because the FEGS are available to everyone and used by everyone to live.

Any person who is aware of aquatic vegetation as habitat for other species and appreciates knowing that this environment exists

The Earth

Cultural and spiritual practices recognise Earth as a living entity, and thus a beneficiary of non-use, intrinsic values[6][3].

Any person who is aware of aquatic vegetation as habitat for other species and appreciates knowing that this environment exists


  1. ^ DeWitt, TH, Berry, WJ, Canfield, TJ, Fulford, RS, Harwell, MC, Hoffman, JC, Johnston, JM, Newcomer-Johnson, TA, Ringold, PL, Russell, MJ, Sharpe, LA & Yee, SH (2020), 'The Final Ecosystem Goods & Services (FEGS) Approach: A Beneficiary-Centric Method to Support Ecosystem-Based Management', in T G O’Higgins, M Lago & T H DeWitt (eds), Ecosystem-Based Management, Ecosystem Services and Aquatic Biodiversity : Theory, Tools and Applications. [online], Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp. 127-145. Available at:
  2. ^ a b c Finisdore, J, Rhodes, C, Haines-Young, R, Maynard, S, Wielgus, J, Dvarskas, A, Houdet, J, Quétier, F, Lamothe, KA, Ding, H, Soulard, F, Van Houtven, G & Rowcroft, P (October 2020), 'The 18 benefits of using ecosystem services classification systems', Ecosystem Services. [online], vol. 45, p. 101160. Available at: [Accessed 20 September 2021].
  3. ^ Gould, RK, Pai, M, Muraca, B & Chan, KMA (2 September 2019), 'He ʻike ʻana ia i ka pono (it is a recognizing of the right thing): how one indigenous worldview informs relational values and social values', Sustainability Science. [online], vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 1213-1232. Available at: [Accessed 5 April 2022].
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Landers, DH & Nahlik, AM (2013), Final ecosystem goods and services classification system (FEGS-CS). [online], vol. EPA/600/R-13/ORD-004914., United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).. Available at: [Accessed 22 September 2020].
  5. ^ a b c Newcomer-Johnson, T, Andrews, F, Corona, J, DeWitt, TH, Harwell, MC, Rhodes, C, Ringold, P, Russell, MJ & Van Houtven, G (2020), National Ecosystem Services Classification System (NESCS) Plus. [online], vol. EPA/600/R20/267, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Available at:
  6. ^ O’Connor, S & Kenter, JO (September 2019), 'Making intrinsic values work; integrating intrinsic values of the more-than-human world through the Life Framework of Values', Sustainability Science. [online], vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 1247-1265. Available at: [Accessed 24 March 2021].
  7. ^ US Environmental Protection Agency (2015), National Ecosystem Services Classification System (NESCS): Framework Design and Policy Application. [online], vol. PA/800/R-15/002, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC, U.S.A.. Available at:
  8. ^ Yee, SH, Sullivan, A, Williams, KC & Winters, K (3 July 2019), 'Who Benefits from National Estuaries? Applying the FEGS Classification System to Identify Ecosystem Services and their Beneficiaries', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. [online], vol. 16, no. 13, p. 2351. Available at: [Accessed 29 January 2021].

Last updated: 14 November 2022

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2022) How are beneficiaries classified?, WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation