Traditional fisher on Inle Lake, Myanmar © K Payet-Lebourges

The research framework of ecoSERVICES was designed with the view to improve the uptake of scientific knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services in decision-making. With this framework we hope to foster international coordination of transdisciplinary sustainability science through the lens of ecosystem services.

Ecosystem services are a mainstream concept for the expression of values assigned by people to biodiversity. Despite the vast amount of research generated on the concept, progress in using this scientific knowledge for sustainable resource use remains largely insufficient. In ecoSERVICES, we believe that to improve knowledge incorporation into decision-making, ecosystem service research should prefer a more holistic investigation scheme than has generally been adopted. Thus, we saw a need to structure the scope of research to answer three main questions that jointly capture all aspects of the ecosystem service concept, from production to stewardship. We adopt inter- or transdisciplinary research to address these questions.

How, when and where are ecosystem services co-produced by social–ecological systems?

This questions aims to elucidate how the relative importance and interplay of biophysical, ecological and social components over time and space translate into the actual stocks and flows of services. The four following avenues help improve knowledge in this area:

  1. Identify the role of biodiversity and other forms of heterogeneity in maintaining multiple ecosystem services
  2. Understand the effect of landscape and seascape heterogeneity on ecosystem service supply
  3. Assess the role of path-dependence and legacy effects in the supply of multiple ecosystem services
  4. Understand the function of social systems in ecosystem service supply

Who benefits from the provision of ecosystem services?

This challenge seeks to understand the diversity of beneficiaries, their motivations and their potential conflictual interests at different spatial-temporal scales. More specifically, the following points need to be clarified:

  1. Understand the diversity of stakeholders, their benefits from ecosystem services and their preferences for valuing services
  2. Identify spatial patterns of ecosystem services use and benefit
  3. Identify temporal dynamics of ecosystem services use and supply

What are the best practices for the governance of ecosystem services?

The challenge here is to improve the understanding of the ways in which different institutional structures influence more equitable and sustainable management practices and benefits; and of how socio-political processes promote or hinder the emergence and maintenance of this governance. There is a need to:

  1. Characterise how institutions and agents influence the supply and distribution of ecosystem services
  2. Identify tools, models and processes to support efficient, equitable and sustainable decision-making processes that account for feedbacks in complex social–ecological systems
  3. Understand the socio-political processes that create, support or constrain transformative pathways towards equitable, efficient and sustainable governance of ecosystem services

work with us!

Does this framework resonates with your own work? Can you contribute to its implementation from the angle of research, policy, management or awareness-raising? Consider joining our community of practice and team up on paving the way to change!

September 2015