Quantifying interregional flows of multiple ecosystem services – A case study for Germany

Janina Kleemann*, Matthias Schröter, Kenneth J. Bagstad, Christian Kuhlicke, Thomas Kastner, Dor Fridman, Catharina J.E. Schulp, Sarah Wolff, Javier Martínez-López, Thomas Koellner, Sebastian Arnhold, Berta Martín-López, Alexandra Marques, Laura Lopez-Hoffman, Jianguo Liu, Meidad Kissinger, Carlos Antonio Guerra, Aletta Bonn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Despite a growing number of national-scale ecosystem service (ES) assessments, few studies consider the impacts of ES use and consumption beyond national or regional boundaries. Interregional ES flows – ecosystem services “imported” from and “exported” to other countries – are rarely analyzed and their importance for global sustainability is little known. Here, we provide a first multi-ES quantification of a nation's use of ES from abroad. We focus on ES flows that benefit the population in Germany but are supplied outside German territory. We employ a conceptual framework recently developed to systematically quantify interregional ES flows. We address four types of interregional ES flows with: (i) biophysical flows of traded goods: cocoa import for consumption; (ii) flows mediated by migratory species: migration of birds providing pest control; (iii) passive biophysical flows: flood control along transboundary watersheds; and (iv) information flows: China's giant panda loan to the Berlin Zoo. We determined that: (i) Ivory Coast and Ghana alone supply around 53% of Germany's cocoa while major negative consequences for biodiversity occurred in Cameroon and Ecuador; (ii) Africa´s humid and sub-humid climate zones are important habitats for the majority of migratory bird species that provide natural pest control services in agricultural areas in Germany; (iii) Upstream watersheds outside the country add an additional 64% flood regulation services nationally, while Germany exports 40% of flood regulation services in neighboring, downstream countries; (iv) Information flows transported by the pandas were mainly related to political aspects and - contrary to our expectations - considerably less on biological and natural aspects. We discuss the implications of these results for international resource management policy and governance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102051
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


This paper is a joint effort of the working group “sTeleBES - Telecoupled use of biodiversity and ecosystem services: synthesis of concepts, methods and evidence” kindly supported by sDiv, the Synthesis Centre (sDiv) of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (DFG FZT 118). We thank Volker Grescho, Jan Watzema and Jeremy Havens for assistance with the preparation of figures and data management. Christian Kuhlicke thanks Vera Hickethier. She collected the data for the information flows (giant pandas) in the context of her master studies. Support for Ken Bagstad's time was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey's Land Change Science Program. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Thomas Kastner was supported by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF), project no. ESR17-014. Laura Lopez-Hoffman acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards DEB-1118975 and DEB-1518359. Support for Liu's time was provided by US National Science Foundation and Michigan AgBioResearch. Javier Martínez-López acknowledges the support of the Spanish Government through María de Maeztu excellence accreditation 2018-2021 (Ref. MDM-2017-0714). Sarah Wolff was supported by the European Research Council grant GLOLAND (grant no. 311819). The publication as open access was financed by the Department Ecosystem Services, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ and the Bernd-Rendel-Prize for Janina Kleemann, German Research Foundation (DFG).

FundersFunder number
Bernd-Rendel-Prize for Janina Kleemann
Michigan AgBioResearchMDM-2017-0714
Synthesis Centre
U.S. Government
National Science FoundationDEB-1518359, DEB-1118975
U.S. Geological Survey
European Research Council311819
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftFZT 118
Vienna Science and Technology FundESR17-014
Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung
Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung Halle-Jena-Leipzig


    • Assessment
    • Flow
    • Interregional ecosystem services
    • Quantification
    • Telecoupling


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