Defined by the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment as “the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems”, cultural ecosystem services list the “cultural diversity, spiritual and religious values, knowledge systems, educational values, inspiration, aesthetic values, social relations, sense of place, cultural heritage values, recreation and ecotourism”. As such, cultural services, like all ecosystem services, must demonstrate a significant relationship between ecosystem structures and functions on the one hand, see the biophysical domain, and the benefits people obtain on the other hand, within the social domain.
Even though the importance of cultural services (CES) is widely being recognized, a series of challenges related to its assessment remain for two reasons. First, CES depend strongly on human perceptions and subjective preferences that cannot be quantified without analysing societal values. Second, spatially explicit assessment is difficult because CES are not directly linked to ecosystem processes.
Cultural Services play a significant role in the ES assessment for a wide range of reasons. In industrial societies, cultural ecosystem services are often valued ahead of other services and demand is expected to furhter grow. By contrast, in traditional communities, cultural ecosystem services are essential for cultural identity. However, even though often scoring highly in public perception and being greatly valued by stakeholders, they are sometimes sacrificed for economic and ecological reasons by stakeholders.
The mapping and assessment of cultural ecosystem services encompasses transdisciplinary approaches, including ecological, economical, social research approaches. Despite, the interdisciplinary perspective and methodology, there are still many unsolved issues on important facets of the assessment of cultural ecosystem services. Even though, many authors are increasingly trying to resolve the issues beyond the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, only a few satisfactory approaches in mapping and assessing cultural ES could have been provided so far.