EPA Science Inventory

WHERE IS THE CONSENSUS? A PROPOSED FOUNDATION FOR MOVING ECOSYSTEM SERVICE CONCEPTS INTO PRACTICE

Citation:

NAHLIK, A. M., M. E. KENTULA, M. S. Fennessy, AND D. H. LANDERS. WHERE IS THE CONSENSUS? A PROPOSED FOUNDATION FOR MOVING ECOSYSTEM SERVICE CONCEPTS INTO PRACTICE. ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 77:27-35, (2012).

Description:

Inconsistency with terms, definitions, and classifications hinders the advancement of the study and application of ecosystem services. A unified approach among the many disciplines that are involved in researching and implementing ecosystem services is imperative to moving concepts into practice. An operational definition needs to be adopted by the ecosystem service community as the basis of a classification system so that ecosystem goods and services may be measured by ecologists, valued by economists, and utilized by decision-makers. We propose a transdisciplinary approach centered upon shared guiding principles, a definition of ecosystem services, and classification system. The result of this shared foundation is a common set of ecosystem goods and services that serves as the focus for and connection among natural scientists, social scientists, and decision-makers. This foundation is specific enough to be operational while remaining relevant to a multitude of ecosystem service objectives for which frameworks and implementation plans may be developed. Although numerous ecosystem service frameworks exist in the literature, many of them are non-operational or are focused toward a single discipline. An evaluation of these frameworks helps to identify where the knowledge gaps exist and suggest how we may advance ecosystem services into practice. Our evaluation demonstrates that foundational concepts – especially an ecosystem service definition and classification system, and community involvement – are often poorly addressed in ecosystem service frameworks.

Purpose/Objective:

"Ecosystem services" are a tool to connect and communicate the importance of ecosystem decisions to the public. Quantifying, valuing, and incorporating "ecosystem services" into policy and management decisions are commonly cited goals by academic, non-profit, and government organizations. Despite the recognized importance of ecosystem services as a research and communication tool, a common language that decision-makers and researchers from different disciplines can use to communicate with each other and the public is lacking. We offer a potential solution. We propose a unifying approach centered upon shared guiding principles, a definition of ecosystem services, and a classification system for ecosystem services. We also demonstrate that foundational concepts are often poorly addressed in ecosystem service frameworks via an evaluation of 11 peer-reviewed ecosystem framework papers. If a shared conceptual foundation and development process is used by the ecosystem service community, research will become more reproducible, more relevant to other studies, locations, disciplines, and human well-being, better integrated into policy and decision-making, and more clearly communicated to the public.

URLs/Downloads:

WHERE IS THE CONSENSUS? A PROPOSED FOUNDATION FOR MOVING ECOSYSTEM SERVICE CONCEPTS INTO PRACTICE   (PDF,NA pp, 40 KB,  about PDF)

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Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Start Date: 05/01/2012
Completion Date: 05/01/2012
Record Last Revised: 10/29/2012
Record Created: 09/23/2011
Record Released: 09/23/2011
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 238418

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

FRESHWATER ECOLOGY BRANCH