Geosystem services to support decisions on subsurface use
Licentiatavhandling, 2023

Awareness of the subsurface is in general low and is not a daily concern for decision-makers. This often results in that decisions on access to subsurface resources instead are guided by a ‘first come, first served principle’. This is precarious, as such decisions may lead to intra- and intergenerational conflicts of interest, as utilisation of one subsurface resource at one point in time may inhibit, or severely limit, the utilisation of other subsurface resources in the future, potentially impeding sustainable development.

Though not fully developed the concept of geosystem services (GS) has been put forward as a concept that can make these resources more visible and acknowledged in decision-making. However, a systematic literature review of scientific publications on geosystem services was carried out and the emerging picture is that the geosystem services concept is both one of novelty and one of discrepancy, with two prominent definitions: A) GS are abiotic services that are the direct result of the planet’s geodiversity, independent of the interactions with biotic nature – there is no differentiation between suprasurface and subsurface features, and B) GS provide benefits specifically resulting from the subsurface. Of the identified geosystem services, 31 out of 39 are listed in the abiotic extension of CICES 5.1 (Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services), but some essential services are omitted.

To support well-informed decisions on the utilisation of subsurface resources, positive effects need to be weighed against negative effects on a society-wide level, not least regarding effects on the future supply of subsurface resources, or subsurface geosystem services. Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a method for providing a basis for such decisions by considering the positive and negative effects on human well-being (i.e., benefits and costs, respectively) on a societal level.

In this thesis, a generic CBA rule for assessing subsurface projects is applied to two theoretical cases to show conceptually how CBA can be applied for the prioritisation of competing uses of subsurface resources. The result from these two cases highlights that a systematic mapping of the effects that arise due to subsurface projects, using geosystems services as a point of departure, can make the consequences of such projects more visible and indicate who will be affected. The exemplification shows that a CBA can provide a basis for supporting decisions on prioritising competing subsurface uses, but that there is a need for complementary types of analyses to capture the wide range of benefits the subsurface provides. Finally, some supporting and possibly regulating geosystem services can be either intermediate or final services depending on analytical context, which is important to consider, not least in a CBA to avoid double counting.

Geosystem services


Ecosystem services


Conflict of interests

SB-H5, Samhällsbyggnad I-II, Sven Hultins Gata 6, Chalmers University of Technology, 412 58 Göteborg.
Opponent: Derk van Ree, Deltares, Netherlands


Emrik Lundin Frisk

Chalmers, Arkitektur och samhällsbyggnadsteknik, Geologi och geoteknik

Lundin Frisk, E., Merisalu, J., Söderqvist, T., Volchko, Y., Ericsson, L. O., Norrman J., (2023) Geosystem services and cost-benefit analysis for revealing subsurface conflicts

Nya tematiska underlag för att stödja planering och värdering av undermarken

Sveriges Geologiska Undersökning (SGU) (36-1341/2019), 2020-03-01 -- 2023-12-31.

BeFo - stiftelsen bergteknisk forskning, 2020-03-01 -- 2023-12-31.

Geosystemtjänster - beskrivning och värdering av undermarkens resusrser som ett verktyg i samhällsplaneringen

J. Gust. Richert stiftelse (dnr2019-00563), 2019-07-01 -- 2022-08-31.

UNDER: Geosystemtjänster under mark för hållbara samhällen och förbättrade planeringsprocesser

Formas (2021-00057), 2021-09-01 -- 2025-08-31.





SB-H5, Samhällsbyggnad I-II, Sven Hultins Gata 6, Chalmers University of Technology, 412 58 Göteborg.


Opponent: Derk van Ree, Deltares, Netherlands

Relaterade dataset

Technical report no 2023:1 [dataset]

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