Title

What Matters and Why? Ecosystem Services and Their Bundled Qualities

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title

Ecological Economics

Publisher

Elsevier

Publication Date

9-18-2014

Volume

107

First Page

310

Last Page

320

Abstract

Much ecosystem service (ES) research is structured around four often implicit assumptions about ES, benefits, and stakeholders' conceptions of these: 1) ES assessors can identify and characterize priority ES across stakeholders without local participation; 2) Stakeholders derive one kind of benefit from each ES in a one-to-one, production function manner; 3) Most ESs are amenable to market or non-market economic valuation; and 4) Stakeholders primarily conceive of the importance of nature in terms of ecosystems' production of benefits. We empirically evaluated these assumptions with a map-based interview protocol to characterize what can be managed (ES and related activities), what matters (benefits) and why (values). Based on interviews with residents of coastal communities in British Columbia, 87% of responses to cultural ES interview prompts conveyed bundles of linked services, benefits and values. Many ES-related values (e.g., transformative and identity) matter in ways that are not adequately expressed using market or non-market valuation. Respondents used diverse metaphors about why the ocean is important, not only the ES production metaphor, which assumes that values are a function of ecosystem processes. Our research demonstrates the utility of our interview protocol for providing a fuller representation of ecosystem-related values and benefits, potentially informing environmental decision-making processes.

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