The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) V5.1
Description and method logic
CICES is a hierarchical framework designed to help measure, account for, and assess final ecosystem services (services). The framework is designed to provide a common naming and classification system of services to support ecosystem accounting frameworks.
CICES uses a hierarchy to classify services that arise from biotic (e.g. living) and abiotic (e.g. non-living) structures and processes within ecosystems. It identifies both the purposes or uses that people have for the different kinds of ecosystem service and the particular ecosystem attributes or behaviours that support them. The framework defines services as ‘the contributions that ecosystems make to human well-being’. The definition of each service is made up of two parts: a clause describing the biophysical output (i.e. the ‘ecological clause’ noting what the ecosystem does) and a clause describing the contribution it makes to an eventual use or benefit (‘use clause’).
CICES can be easily cross-referenced between different ecosystem service classification systems, such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) 2005, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting—Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA).
The CICES hierarchy has five-levels:
Each level is progressively more detailed and specific. Each level of the hierarchy is dependent on one another in that the characteristics used to define services at the lower levels are inherited from the Sections, Divisions and Groups above them. It is important to note that at any level in the hierarchy, the categories are intended to be exclusive so that CICES can be regarded as a classification system.
Each service classification is assigned a unique four-digit code. Biotic provisioning, regulation and maintenance, and cultural services are labelled at the Section level as 1, 2, and 3 respectively, while the abiotic outputs are labelled 4, 5, 6 at the Section level. Services can then be coded under each section at the Division, Group, and Class levels. For example, under the “Provisioning Biotic” Section, the class type “Cultivated terrestrial plants (including fungi, algae) grown for nutritional purposes” is labelled as 126.96.36.199. Under the “Provisioning Abiotic” Section, the class type “Mineral substances used for material purposes” is labelled 188.8.131.52.
Although CICES at the Class level is intended to be exhaustive, each of the Section levels enable users to develop services not yet included in CICES. In the coding system, where CICES codes are unavailable for a service, the nearest CICES code for “other” is used (for example, 2.3.X.X) and a new code number is substituted for ‘x’.
Criteria groupings of the method
CICES groups criteria under the five levels of the hierarchy:
Section (e.g. provisioning, regulation & maintenance, cultural)
Division (e.g. biomass, regulation of physical, chemical, biological conditions, direct, in-situ and outdoor interactions with natural physical systems that depend on presence in the environmental setting)
Group (e.g. cultivated aquatic plants for nutrition, materials or energy, regulation of baseline flows and extreme events, spiritual, symbolic and other interactions with the abiotic components of the natural environment)
Class (e.g. fibres and other materials from cultivated plants, fungi, algae and bacteria for direct use or processing (excluding genetic materials), bio-remediation by micro-organisms, algae, plants, and animals, characteristics of living systems that enable education and training)
*For conciseness, the ‘Criteria by Category’ section presented later in this entry only lists Section and Group categories. For detailed information, please see the CICES spreadsheet.
Criteria by category
Physical and chemical
Natural resource managers, government agencies, local government, researchers, education, science communicators
A blueprint for mapping and modelling ecosystem services
Accounting for capacity and flow of ecosystem services: A conceptual model and a case study for Telemark, Norway
CICES going local: Ecosystem services classification adapted for a highly populated country
Classification of boreal forest ecosystem goods and services in Finland. Publications of the University of Eastern Finland
Ecosystem service trade-offs from supply to social demand: A landscape-scale spatial analysis
From explanation to application: introducing a practice-oriented ecosystem services evaluation (PRESET) model adapted to the context of landscape planning and management
Linking ecosystem services with landscape history
Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. Indicators for ecosystem assessments under Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020
Potentials of quantitative and qualitative approaches to assessing ecosystem services
Value of ecosystem services? Examples and experiences on forests, peatlands, agricultural lands, and freshwaters in Finland
What services do wetlands provide?
Where concepts meet the real world: A systematic review of ecosystem service indicators and their classification using CICES
Last updated: 21 June 2022
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2022) The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) V5.1, WetlandInfo website, accessed 1 February 2023. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/resources/tools/assessment-search-tool/the-common-international-classification-of-ecosystem-services-cices-v5-1/