Mapping ecosystem services (ES) increases the awareness of natural capital value, leading to building sustainability into decision-making processes. Recently, many techniques to assess the value of ES delivered by different scenarios of land use/land cover (LULC) are available, thus becoming important practices in mapping to support the land use planning process. The spatial analysis of the biophysical ES distribution allows a better comprehension of the environmental and social implications of planning, especially when ES concerns the management of risk (e.g., erosion, pollution). This paper investigates the nutrient retention model of InVEST software through its spatial distribution and its quantitative value. The model was analyzed by testing its response to changes in input parameters: (1) the digital terrain elevation model (DEM); and (2) different LULC attribute configurations. The paper increases the level of attention to specific ES models that use water runoff as a proxy of nutrient delivery. It shows that the spatial distribution of biophysical values is highly influenced by many factors, among which the characteristics of the DEM and its interaction with LULC are included. The results seem to confirm that the biophysical value of ES is still affected by a high degree of uncertainty and encourage an expert field campaign as the only solution to use ES mapping for a regulative land use framework.
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