An introductory guide on the production and use of biodiversity scenarios in decision-making contexts, elaborated in the framework of the BiodivScen programme launched jointly with the Belmont Forum.


This handbook is intended for any individual interested to learn about biodiversity scenarios, and in particular participatory scenario design and the use of biodiversity scenarios in decision-making. It builds on a variety of sources (literature, expert and non-expert consultations, interviews) to provide a general understanding of scenarios of biodiversity, concrete examples of their use, and a directory of relevant resources to go further on the topic.


In this guide, you will learn:

  • Different types of scenarios that relate to decision-making;
  • Key features, pitfalls, and best practices in developing and using scenarios of biodiversity and ecosystem services;
  • Illustrative examples, case studies, and lessons learned on participatory biodiversity scenarios and their use, drawn from research projects funded by BiodivERsA, Belmont Forum, and others;
  • Further reading, tools and resources on the topic of (biodiversity) scenarios.
Handbook on the use of biodiversity scenarios
Resources for the use of biodiversity scenarios in support of decision-making

1. Global biodiversity scenarios

  • CBD. (2014). Global Biodiversity Outlook 4: a mid-term assessment of progress towards the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • CBD. (2017). Scenarios For The 2050 Vision For Biodiversity [Note by the Executive Secretary]. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Twenty-first meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), Montréal, Canada.
  • Harrison, P. A., Harmáčková, Z. V., Aloe Karabulut, A., Brotons, L., Cantele, M., Claudet, J., Dunford, R. W., Guisan, A., Holman, I. P., Jacobs, S., Kok, K., Lobanova, A., Morán-Ordóñez, A., Pedde, S., Rixen, C., Santos-Martín, F., Schlaepfer, M. A., Solidoro, C., Sonrel, A., & Hauck, J. (2019). Synthesizing plausible futures for biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe and Central Asia using scenario archetypes. Ecology and Society24(2), 27.
  • Leadley, P., Pereira, H. M., Alkemade, R., Fernandez-Manjarre, J. F., Proenca, V., Scharlemann, J. P. W., & Walpole, M. J. (2010). Biodiversity Scenarios: Projections of 21st century change in biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. A Technical Report for the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3. (CBD technical series, no. 50.). Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Pereira, H. M., Leadley, P. W., Proença, V., Alkemade, R., Scharlemann, J. P. W., Fernandez-Manjarrés, J. F., Araújo, M. B., Balvanera, P., Biggs, R., Cheung, W. W. L., Chini, L., Cooper, H. D., Gilman, E. L., Guénette, S., Hurtt, G. C., Huntington, H. P., Mace, G. M., Oberdorff, T., Revenga, C., … Walpole, M. (2010). Scenarios for Global Biodiversity in the 21st Century. Science330(6010), 1496–1501.
  • Sala, O. E., Chapin III, F. S., Armesto, J. J., Berlow, E., Bloomfield, J., Dirzo, R., Huber-Sanwald, E., Huenneke, L. F., Jackson, R. B., Kinzig, A., Leemans, R., Lodge, D. M., Mooney, H. A., Oesterheld, M., LeRoy Poff, N., Sykes, M. T., Walker, B. H., Walker, M., & Wall, D. H. (2000). Global Biodiversity Scenarios for the Year 2100. Science287(5459), 1770–1774.
  • UNU-IAS. (2010). Satoyama – Satoumi Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Socio-ecological Production Landscapes of Japan – Summary for Decision Makers. United Nations University.

2.1 General guidance on scenarios

  • Addison, P. F. E., Rumpff, L., Bau, S. S., Carey, J. M., Chee, Y. E., Jarrad, F. C., McBride, M. F., & Burgman, M. A. (2013). Practical solutions for making models indispensable in conservation decision-making. Diversity and Distributions19(5–6), 490–502.
  • Bullock, J., & Ding, H. (2018). A guide to selecting ecosystem service models for decision-making: Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa. World Resources Institute.
  • Faivre, N., Fritz, M., Freitas, T., de Boissezon, B., & Vandewoestijne, S. (2017). Nature-Based Solutions in the EU: Innovating with nature to address social, economic and environmental challenges. Environmental Research159, 509–518.
  • Hauck, J. (2019, January 8). Scenarios and pathways to sustainable development [Presentation]. Mini-symposium ‘Beleid voor biodiversiteit’, Brussels, Belgium.
  • Hunt, D. V. L., Lombardi, D. R., Atkinson, S., Barber, A. R. G., Barnes, M., Boyko, C. T., Brown, J., Bryson, J., Butler, D., Caputo, S., Caserio, M., Coles, R., Cooper, R. F. D., Farmani, R., Gaterell, M., Hale, J., Hales, C., Hewitt, C. N., Jankovic, L., … Rogers, C. D. F. (2012). Scenario Archetypes: Converging Rather than Diverging Themes. Sustainability, 4(4), 740–772.
  • IPBES. (2016a). Summary for policymakers of the methodological assessment of scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (S. Ferrier, K. N. Ninan, P. Leadley, R. Alkemade, L. A. Acosta, H. R. Akçakaya, L. Brotons, W. W. L. Cheung, V. Christensen, K. A. Harhash, J. Kabubo-Mariara, C. Lundquist, H. M. Obersteiner, G. Peterson, R. Pichs-Madruga, N. Ravindranath, C. Rondinini, & B. A. Wintle, Eds.). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
  • IPBES. (2016c). The methodological assessment report on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services (S. Ferrier, K. N. Ninan, P. Leadley, R. Alkemade, L. A. Acosta, H. R. Akçakaya, L. Brotons, W. W. L. Cheung, V. Christensen, K. A. Harhash, J. Kabubo-Mariara, C. Lundquist, H. M. Obersteiner, G. Peterson, R. Pichs-Madruga, N. Ravindranath, C. Rondinini, & B. A. Wintle, Eds.). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
  • Kosow, H., & Gaßner, R. (2008). Methods of Future and Scenario Analysis. Overview, Assessment, and Selection Criteria. German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).
  • Krug, C. B., Schaepman, M. E., Shannon, L. J., Cavender-Bares, J., Cheung, W., McIntyre, P. B., Metzger, J. P., Niinemets, Ü., Obura, D. O., Schmid, B., Strassburg, B. B. N., Van Teeffelen, A. J. A., Weyl, O. L. F., Yasuhara, M., & Leadley, P. W. (2017). Observations, indicators and scenarios of biodiversity and ecosystem services change — a framework to support policy and decision-making. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability29, 198–206.
  • Krzysztofowicz, M., Goudeseune, L., Bontoux, L., & Balian, E. (2018). Workshop on Horizon Scanning: from interesting to useful, from practice to impact. Joint Research Centre.
  • Mahmoud, M., Liu, Y., Hartmann, H., Stewart, S., Wagener, T., Semmens, D., Stewart, R., Gupta, H., Dominguez, D., Dominguez, F., Hulse, D., Letcher, R., Rashleigh, B., Smith, C., Street, R., Ticehurst, J., Twery, M., van Delden, H., Waldick, R., … Winter, L. (2009). A formal framework for scenario development in support of environmental decision-making. Environmental Modelling & Software24(7), 798–808.
  • McKenzie, E., Rosenthal, A., Bernhardt, J., Girvetz, E., Kovacs, K., Olwero, N., & Toft, J. (2012). Developing scenarios to assess ecosystem service tradeoffs. World Wildlife Fund.
  • Menéndez Pastor, F. (2009). Exploring Scenario Planning Processes (Thesis). Lund University.
  • Nicholson, E., Fulton, E. A., Brooks, T. M., Blanchard, R., Leadley, P., Metzger, J. P., Mokany, K., Stevenson, S., Wintle, B. A., Woolley, S. N. C., Barnes, M., Watson, J. E. M., & Ferrier, S. (2019). Scenarios and Models to Support Global Conservation Targets. Trends in Ecology & Evolution34(1), 57–68.
  • Oteros-Rozas, E., Martín-López, B., Daw, T. M., Bohensky, E. L., Butler, J. R. A., Hill, R., Martin-Ortega, J., Quinlan, A., Ravera, F., Ruiz-Mallén, I., Thyresson, M., Mistry, J., Palomo, I., Peterson, G. D., Plieninger, T., Waylen, K. A., Beach, D. M., Bohnet, I. C., Hamann, M., … Vilardy, S. P. (2015). Participatory scenario planning in place-based social-ecological research: insights and experiences from 23 case studies. Ecology and Society20(4), 23.
  • Peterson, G. D., Cumming, G. S., & Carpenter, S. R. (2003). Scenario Planning: a Tool for Conservation in an Uncertain World. Conservation Biology17(2), 358–366.
  • Pichs-Madruga, R., Obersteiner, M., Cantele, M., Ahmed, M. T., Cui, X., Cury, P., Fall, S., & Kellner, K. (2016). Building scenarios and models of drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem change. In IPBES (Ed.), The methodological assessment report on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services (pp. 83–118). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
  • Rosa, I. M. D., Purvis, A., Alkemade, R., Chaplin-Kramer, R., Ferrier, S., Guerra, C. A., Hurtt, G., Kim, H., Leadley, P., Martins, I. S., Popp, A., Schipper, A. M., van Vuuren, D., & Pereira, H. M. (2020). Challenges in producing policy-relevant global scenarios of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Global Ecology and Conservation22, e00886.
  • Shell. (2008). Scenarios: An explorer’s guide. Shell International BV.
  • Sitas, N., Harmáčková, Z. V., Anticamara, J. A., Arneth, A., Badola, R., Biggs, R., Blanchard, R., Brotons, L., Cantele, M., Coetzer, K., DasGupta, R., den Belder, E., Ghosh, S., Guisan, A., Gundimeda, H., Hamann, M., Harrison, P. A., Hashimoto, S., Hauck, J., … Valle, M. (2019). Exploring the usefulness of scenario archetypes in science-policy processes: experience across IPBES assessments. Ecology and Society24(3), 35.
  • Van Vuuren, D. P., Kok, M. T. J., Girod, B., Lucas, P. L., & de Vries, B. (2012). Scenarios in Global Environmental Assessments: Key characteristics and lessons for future use. Global Environmental Change22(4), 884–895.

2.2 Guidance on scenarios relevant to specific sectors

2.3 Guidance on communication and uncertainty

  • Hudson-Doyle, E., Paton, D., & Johnston, D. (2018). Reflections on the communication of uncertainty: developing decision-relevant information. In K. Stock & D. Bunker (Eds.), Proceedings of ISCRAM Asia Pacific 2018: Innovating for Resilience – 1st International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management Asia Pacific (pp. 166–189). New Zealand: Massey University.
  • Langsdale, S. (2008). Communication of Climate Change Uncertainty to Stakeholders Using the Scenario Approach. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education140(1), 24–29.
  • Thuiller, W., Guéguen, M., Renaud, J., Karger, D. N., & Zimmermann, N. E. (2019). Uncertainty in ensembles of global biodiversity scenarios. Nature Communications10(1), 1146.

2.4 Guidance on stakeholder engagement and participatory design

  • Berg, C., Rogers, S., & Mineau, M. (2016). Building scenarios for ecosystem services tools: Developing a methodology for efficient engagement with expert stakeholders. Futures81, 68–80.
  • Durham, E., Baker, H., Smith, M., Moore, E., & Morgan, V. (2014). The BiodivERsA Stakeholder Engagement Handbook. BiodivERsA.
  • Karner, K., Cord, A. F., Hagemann, N., Hernandez-Mora, N., Holzkämper, A., Jeangros, B., Lienhoop, N., Nitsch, H., Rivas, D., Schmid, E., Schulp, C. J. E., Strauch, M., van der Zanden, E. H., Volk, M., Willaarts, B., Zarrineh, N., & Schönhart, M. (2019). Developing stakeholder-driven scenarios on land sharing and land sparing – Insights from five European case studies. Journal of Environmental Management, 241, 488–500.
  • Lemaitre, F., Bridgewater, P., Eggermont, H., Gardner, S., Hueso, K., Niemelä, J., Paloniemi, R., Pereira Martins, I., Thornton, A., & Le Roux, X. (2018). BiodivERsA guide on policy relevance of research and on effective science/policy interfacing in research proposals. BiodivERsA.
  • Raum, S. (2018). A framework for integrating systematic stakeholder analysis in ecosystem services research: Stakeholder mapping for forest ecosystem services in the UK. Ecosystem Services29, 170–184.
  • Rawluk, A., & Godber, A. (2011). Widening the Scope of Scenario Planning in Small Communities: a Case Study Use of an Alternative Method. Ecology and Society, 16(1), 11.
  • Van Berkel, D. B., & Verburg, P. H. (2012). Combining exploratory scenarios and participatory backcasting: using an agent-based model in participatory policy design for a multi-functional landscape. Landscape Ecology, 27(5), 641–658.
  • Wardropper, C. B., Gillon, S., Mase, A. S., McKinney, E. A., Carpenter, S. R., & Rissman, A. R. (2016). Local perspectives and global archetypes in scenario development. Ecology and Society, 21(2), 12.
  • Willcock, S., Hooftman, D., Sitas, N., O’Farrell, P., Hudson, M. D., Reyers, B., Eigenbrod, F., & Bullock, J. M. (2016). Do ecosystem service maps and models meet stakeholders’ needs? A preliminary survey across sub-Saharan Africa. Ecosystem Services18, 110–117.

3. Examples of scenario application

4. Online tools / databases of scenarios

  • Biosphere Futures (2019)
    Biosphere Futures is an online database that offers a global collection of place-based social-ecological scenario case studies. It provides a collection of socio-ecological scenarios that can be explored by selecting the ecosystem type, region, scale/scope, or SDG to which they relate. The aim is to facilitate assessment, synthesis and comparative analysis of scenario case studies.
  • H3Uni – University of the Third Horizon (2016)
    The University of the Third Horizon presents tools and practices that combine cognitive and social art to support collaborative thinking about complex messy challenges, often found at the heart of transformation. It is designed to enable and encourage a global network of people and organisations, with the common goal of co-creating a viable future for all.
  • IPBES. (2018). IPBES Core Glossary. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
    The IPBES core glossary provides a standard definition for important terms of broad applicability to IPBES outputs.
  • IPBES. (2019). Catalogue of policy support tools. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
    The IPBES describes some case studies of methods (incl. scenario planning) used as policy-supporting tools. It is possible to filter results by issues covered by global conservation targets, ecosystem services, ecosystems, or regions.
  • IPBES Capacity Building initiative
    IPBES capacity-building aims to build capacities that strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
  • ScenarioHub (2020)
    ScenarioHub is a resource centre developed by World Wildlife Fund and the Natural Capital Project, where scenario researchers and practitioners can learn more about spatial mapping and scenario analysis, find appropriate scenario tools using a tool database, and use the Scenario Generator Workspace for creating spatial scenario outputs.
  • The World in 2050 (2020).
    The World in 2050 is a global research initiative in support of a successful implementation of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. The goal of TWI2050 is to provide fact-based knowledge to support the policy process and implementation of the SDGs.
  • WayFinder (2018)
    Wayfinder is a process guide for resilience assessment, planning and action in social-ecological systems. It is designed to balance the need for a legitimate, fair and transparent process through which knowledge is generated and decisions are made with the need for solid and relevant systems analysis that considers the complexity of sustainability challenges in the Anthropocene.
  • World Future Society
    International community of futurists and future thinkers.

5. To go further on biodiversity scenarios

  • Hagemann, N., van der Zanden, E. H., Willaarts, B. A., Holzkämper, A., Volk, M., Rutz, C., Priess, J. A., & Schönhart, M. (2020). Bringing the sharing-sparing debate down to the ground—Lessons learnt for participatory scenario development. Land Use Policy, 91, 104262.
  • Montesino Pouzols, F., Toivonen, T., Di Minin, E., Kukkala, A. S., Kullberg, P., Kuusterä, J., Lehtomäki, J., Tenkanen, H., Verburg, P. H., & Moilanen, A. (2014). Global protected area expansion is compromised by projected land-use and parochialism. Nature, 516(7531), 383–386.
  • Stone, R. J. (2012). Human Factors Guidance for Designers of Interactive 3D and Games-Based Training Systems. Human Factors Integration Defence Technology Centre Publication.
  • Titeux, N., Henle, K., Mihoub, J.-B., Regos, A., Geijzendorffer, I. R., Cramer, W., Verburg, P. H., & Brotons, L. (2016). Biodiversity scenarios neglect future land-use changes. Global Change Biology22(7), 2505–2515.

6. Resources from climate change scenarios