Ecosystem service bundles: the consumption side

By Joern Fischer

My personal recommendation of: Uncovering ecosystem service bundles through social preferences. Martín-López B, Iniesta-Arandia I, García-Llorente M, Palomo I, …, Santos-Martín F, Onaindia M, López-Santiago C, Montes C  PLoS ONE. 2012; 7(6): e38970

Ecosystem service bundles are increasingly being recognized as important. This has mostly been examined from a supply perspective: specific locations, for example, generate certain bundles of ecosystem services. Some types of services rarely co-occur (e.g. nature tourism and intensive farming) whereas others naturally co-occur (e.g. carbon sequestration in forests and water filtration).

In this paper, the authors investigate ecosystem service bundling from the perspective of consumers, rather than from a production perspective. They look at how different groups of people appreciate different aspects in several, quite different environments. The findings are the different types of people appreciate nature in very different ways – formally educated urban dwellers for example, value different types of ecosystems than traditional rural people; and women appear to value regulating services more highly than men.

These kinds of findings are part of an increasing realization that we must not think of ecosystem services as a universally applicable physical phenomenon, but one whose value is shaped by its users. An ecosystem function really only becomes a service when it is valued. This paper nicely demonstrates some avenues that can be pursued to further untangle who values what types of services. Many interesting questions arise from this: What, for example, are the consequences for landscape change if urban dwellers increase in numbers but don’t value multi-functional landscapes? How does formal education, as opposed to traditional ecological knowledge, change what is being valued? These kinds of questions are not answered in this paper, but it’s the kind of paper that got me thinking about many additional questions that naturally follow from its findings presented.

In summary: a new way of looking at bundles, and an elegant way to investigate the consumption side of ecosystem services.

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