The Use of Ecosystem Services Knowledge in Policy-Making

Drawing lessons and adjusting expectations

Authored by: Duncan Russel , Andrew Jordan , John Turnpenny

Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138025080
eBook ISBN: 9781315775302
Adobe ISBN:


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The 12 principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity 1 set out an approach for managing ecosystems and the services they provide in a sustainable manner. Many of the principles imply that a strong knowledge base is required to successfully manage ecosystems (e.g. Principle 6: Ecosystems must be managed within the limits of their functioning). In this respect, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) and similar national based assessments have generated much new knowledge about the functioning of ecosystems, the impacts of human activities on them and the link between ecosystem health and human well-being (Potschin and Haines-Young, 2011). However, simply possessing ‘more knowledge’ is no guarantee that it will be embedded into policymaking to facilitate the greater protection of ecosystems. Indeed, as many existing studies have shown (for an overview see: Owens, 2012, Juntti et al., 2009, Jordan and Russel, 2014), generating more knowledge does not necessarily lead to better environmental or ecological outcomes; knowledge is only ever at most a necessary but insufficient condition for protecting important ecosystems. Thus, an important challenge for scientists and practitioners concerned with the protection of global ecosystems is to better understand and adjust expectations of how knowledge on ecosystem services is used, by whom, and in which context to inform decision-making – see Box 49.1 for key definitions and terms around knowledge use used in this chapter.

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