Event Title

Connecting Ecosystem Service Science to Valuation: We Can Do Better

Presentation Abstract

The valuation of ecosystem services (ES) is central to many efforts to communicate the importance of ecosystems and the human consequences of environmental change. Researchers have argued convincingly that ES research ought to include such valuation, which should be linked to biophysical science, and explicitly connect social change with ecological change. We conducted a systematic literature review (a stratified random sample of 306 studies using ES as a keyword) to assess the proportion of ES studies that (a) includes valuation, (b) is grounded in biophysical science of ES change and/or (c) in social science of such change. We compared these proportions with that of (d) using ‘ES’ in a perfunctory manner as a symbolically loaded keyword. The ratio of studies explicitly mentioning ES without characterizing ES either biophysically or socially to those valuating ES with biophysical grounding was ~26:1. Specifically, in the studies reviewed, there was little biophysical characterization of processes explicitly relevant for ES (20.8 ± 2.5 %), far less valuation (7.7 ± 1.6 %), and minute fractions doing biophysically-grounded valuation (2.7 ± 1.0 %) or characterizing relevant social patterns or processes (2.4 ± 0.9 %). The vast majority of studies were instead using the language of ES to symbolically valorize or signal the importance of ES and/or the study (71.0 ± 2.7 %). While the absolute number of ostensibly ES-related studies has increased greatly, these ratios have not changed significantly over time, suggesting that the field is apparently not maturing in these ways. The bulk of ES research is not living up to its promise or potential. For ES research to improve understanding of the values of ecosystems and ES, and to improve decision-making, it will require a major expansion of existing ES research to characterize the linked biophysical and social dynamics underpinning ES, and to employ a diverse set of approaches to ES valuation and decision-making.

Session Title

Session S-10G: Green Infrastructure to Achieve Ecosystem Recovery Goals and Natural Hazard Mitigation

Conference Track

Shorelines

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (2014 : Seattle, Wash.)

Document Type

Event

Start Date

2-5-2014 1:30 PM

End Date

2-5-2014 3:00 PM

Location

Room 6E

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

Text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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May 2nd, 1:30 PM May 2nd, 3:00 PM

Connecting Ecosystem Service Science to Valuation: We Can Do Better

Room 6E

The valuation of ecosystem services (ES) is central to many efforts to communicate the importance of ecosystems and the human consequences of environmental change. Researchers have argued convincingly that ES research ought to include such valuation, which should be linked to biophysical science, and explicitly connect social change with ecological change. We conducted a systematic literature review (a stratified random sample of 306 studies using ES as a keyword) to assess the proportion of ES studies that (a) includes valuation, (b) is grounded in biophysical science of ES change and/or (c) in social science of such change. We compared these proportions with that of (d) using ‘ES’ in a perfunctory manner as a symbolically loaded keyword. The ratio of studies explicitly mentioning ES without characterizing ES either biophysically or socially to those valuating ES with biophysical grounding was ~26:1. Specifically, in the studies reviewed, there was little biophysical characterization of processes explicitly relevant for ES (20.8 ± 2.5 %), far less valuation (7.7 ± 1.6 %), and minute fractions doing biophysically-grounded valuation (2.7 ± 1.0 %) or characterizing relevant social patterns or processes (2.4 ± 0.9 %). The vast majority of studies were instead using the language of ES to symbolically valorize or signal the importance of ES and/or the study (71.0 ± 2.7 %). While the absolute number of ostensibly ES-related studies has increased greatly, these ratios have not changed significantly over time, suggesting that the field is apparently not maturing in these ways. The bulk of ES research is not living up to its promise or potential. For ES research to improve understanding of the values of ecosystems and ES, and to improve decision-making, it will require a major expansion of existing ES research to characterize the linked biophysical and social dynamics underpinning ES, and to employ a diverse set of approaches to ES valuation and decision-making.