Increasing demand for benefits provided by riverine ecosystems threatens their sustainable provision. The ecosystem service concept is a promising avenue to inform riverine ecosystem management, but previous research has alluded to several challenges that prevent the transition from promising concept to effective application. In this symposia, we compile and contrast methodologies from published studies examining riverine ecosystem services, providing a quantitative overview of the current state of the field. We highlight conceptual and methodological gaps which have impeded progress in management application of the ecosystem service concept, showcasing the unique needs of ecosystem service research in riverine systems.
We found 89 studies that explicitly quantify one or more riverine ecosystem service, most of which were conducted in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Across studies 33 unique types of ecosystem services were identified, a majority of which were regulating and provisioning services. Most studies evaluated one or two ecosystem services (range: 1-20), and did not assess interactions among services. Most also did not include stakeholders in their quantification protocols. Across studies, we found significant variability in the indicators and methods used to quantify the same type of ecosystem service.
Together, our results suggest that there are still many research challenges that need to be addressed in the field of riverine ecosystem services. There is a need for studies to more clearly define the ecosystem services they assess, as well as the indicators, data sources, and methods they use to quantify them. To better aid with land management decisions, we find that the field of riverine ecosystem service science must include more quantification of multiple different types of services, assessment of interactions between services, inclusion of stakeholders, and evaluation of the effect of quantifying services at different spatial scales.