Site-based ecosystem service assessments

Development and deployment of a user-friendly toolkit to help understand the wider public benefits of site conservation and restoration.

 RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Nature Reserve, Llanwddyn, Oswestry, Shropshire, Wales. Views of the lake early morning from the northwest end of the lake.


The natural world provides benefits to people, such as clean water, recreation opportunities and carbon sequestration. These are known as ecosystem services. Quantifying these ecosystem services can support arguments for biodiversity conservation and inform policy and planning. Assessing ecosystem services is increasingly embedded within our conservation and research activities.

The RSPB has been involved in the development of a toolkit for carrying out ecosystem services assessment at the site-scale, known as the Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessments (TESSA). TESSA is a relatively simple toolkit, which can be used by people with a general scientific background, but without specific training. We use TESSA as our first port of call for carrying out ecosystem service assessments at sites to test whether conservation management improves the provision of services, although we also use other tools where appropriate.

We have been involved in assessments at sites in the UK, in the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) and elsewhere in the world.


  • To continue to develop and refine the TESSA toolkit along with Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) partners. 
  • To use TESSA at sites in the UK, UKOTs and elsewhere to measure the effects that conservation management can have on the provision of ecosystem services.
  • To use the results of assessments to support decisions on site management to improve the provision of services while also promoting biodiversity conservation.


  • The first edition of TESSA (Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessments) has been developed, published and is freely available for download on The TESSA website.
  • New modules are being developed to be incorporated in to the second edition of TESSA.
  • TESSA assessments have been carried out at several UK sites, notably upland farmland and coastal managed realignment sites. 
  • TESSA has been used by RSPB staff members to support projects in the UK Overseas Territories of Anguilla and the Cayman Islands, across northwest Europe, in Kenya and in eastern Europe


  • Several peer-reviewed articles based on TESSA assessments have been published in recent years.
  • Reports based on TESSA scoping appraisals have been used in the UK Overseas Territories of Anguilla and the Cayman Islands to support arguments for the promotion of protected area networks.
  • The value of the benefits of the natural world to people is increasingly being incorporated into decision making, and the RSPB's TESSA assessments are contributing to this.


Coast on a stormy day

Dr Michael MacDonald

Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science
Coast on a stormy day

Dr Richard Bradbury

Head of People Conservation Science, Conservation Science
Coast on a stormy day

Dr Rob Field

Senior Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science
Tagged with: Country: England Country: Northern Ireland Country: Scotland Country: Wales Project status: Ongoing Project types: Research