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The DESSIN software tool for ecosystem service assessment in urban freshwaters

December 14, 2018

dessin headerA guest post from the DESSIN project

A new software tool for Ecosystem Service (ESS) assessments is now available. The DESSIN ESS software tool helps environmental practitioners and decision-makers identify, measure, and value ESS, particularly in urban freshwater environments.

The DESSIN ESS software tool was developed by the EU FP7 DESSIN project and is now supported by DHI, one of the project partners. The main objective of DESSIN was to demonstrate innovative solutions for water management, along with a methodology for measuring and valuing ESS.

DESSIN ran from 2014 to 2017, and was based on the assumption that a better understanding of ESS values can help us assess the potential benefits of innovative technologies that reduce water scarcity and improve water quality. Measuring changes to ESS helps us translate impacts on ecosystems to impacts on human welfare, broadening the scope of cost-benefit analysis, and stimulating the update of innovative technologies to help strengthen water management.

The DESSIN methodology for measuring ESS was described in the DESSIN ESS assessment framework and has been formalised into a reproducible methodology through the DESSIN software tool. The software tool is now available for free as part of DHI’s MIKE Workbench software and can be downloaded here.

Dr. Sebastian Birk, director of the MARS project, says, “The DESSIN ESS assessment framework is a state-of-the-art approach for assessment of ecosystem services in urban freshwater settings. The DESSIN software tool makes it easy to apply the framework in a way that is consistent and reproducible.”

The DESSIN ESS software tool facilitates the rapid and comprehensive assessment of ESS services and corresponding economic values in a study area. The tool is geared towards the assessment of available technical and management measures, the potential effectiveness of which can be compared to a ‘no-action’ baseline.


The DPSIR framework for ecological management.

Ecosystem services are services provided by nature to humans, and the DESSIN ESS assessment framework assumes that the level of ecosystem service provision is a function of the state of the ecosystem. Therefore, improvements to the state of the ecosystem are related to better provision of services. The framework begins with a comprehensive assessment of the underlying ecosystem state, which is then related to the provision of ESS. The framework is based on the DPSIR framework (Drivers, Pressures, States, Impacts, Responses), which is widely used in environmental assessments in Europe.

The DESSIN ESS assessment framework links ecosystem state to ESS provision, use, and value through a complex chain of relationships that are captured in a database. The DESSIN software tool provides access to this database in a user-friendly way that makes it easy to apply the framework and keep track of these relationships. It consists of a comprehensive indicator database, including ecosystem state, provision, and use indicators, as well as database of economic valuation methods and studies.

DESSIN locations

Map of DESSIN case studies.

During the DESSIN project, the software tool was applied at five demonstration locations in Europe, to estimate the impact of innovative technologies on ecosystem services, along with associated impacts on human welfare:

In addition, the DESSIN software tool was tested during development on a case study in Aarhus, Denmark, where it was used to evaluate an urban river restoration project.

Niels Riegels from the development team at DHI says, “The DESSIN software tool provides a straightforward way to apply the DESSIN ESS assessment framework. The tool organises information in an accessible database and facilitates easy linkages to any data and models used to support the assessment.”

For more information about the DESSIN software tool, please contact Niels Riegels at

More information:

Download the DESSIN software tool

Read about the DESSIN ESS assessment framework

Visit the DESSIN project website

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