The Beneficiary Perspective

Benefits and beyond

Authored by: Dixon H. Landers , Amanda M. Nahlik , Charles R. Rhodes

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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Humans are dependent on the environment, and the ecosystem services concept helps us see how much. Within the academic and policy communities, subtle differences in definition can greatly affect how we identify and measure ecosystem services and what analysts report to policymakers. Efforts to define, measure, map, and value ecosystem services have met with varying success, but to date, no comprehensive framework or approach has emerged that can consistently inform policymakers in terms useful at different spatial scales. Natural scientists interested in physical measures must directly collaborate with social scientists concerned with valuation and decision-making. This chapter argues that a paradigm shift in how scientists articulate the differences between deeper natural processes and the products of those processes that people use or care about can help to resolve many issues within the ecosystem service community. We pose that great care in separating intermediate ecosystem services from Final Ecosystem Goods and Services will narrow research focus away from inconceivably large values for broad single-metric indicators (e.g., all carbon, all biodiversity in an area), and toward values that are human-scale and clearly affected by specific choices (e.g., Will conversion of wetlands to a new housing development raise the cost of a city’s water for decades?). Our approach does not ignore intermediate ecological processes, but instead focusses measurement attention on ecosystem services that people more directly use or appreciate, and on who these people are – because the value of something changes with the user and with the context of their choice.

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