Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ecosystem Services

Everybody talks about ecosystem services (ESs). But what are they ? As part of a conversation, I already talked about, I asked to Bilal Adem Esmail and Marika Ferrari to get an informed answer. Both of them pointed my attention to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) of which a picture is presented below. In principle, any discipline can find its place in the diagram and try to understand with whom it can profitably dialogate.

Bilal wrote of the subsequent “Cascade Model”, in which a distinction is made among structures, biophysical processes, functions and ecosystem services (as in the scheme below). This to make evident the anthropocentric nature of ESs, and their, in a sense, utilitarian nature. The cascade model, in fact, point to the benefits ESs produces and on their estimation (not excluding their economics). The  Model, besides, tries to make clear the role of Institutions and policies in the management of the feedbacks among the social  and ecological systems.

Bilal says: “Between saying and doing is half of the sea … or better there is to learn”,  learn how to concretise these holistic concepts in reality. As an example he reports what  Cowling et al. (2008) draw in their scheme below.

And here we go back to the issues discusses in the previous post. The scheme shows that the biophysical assessment is a fundamental starting point of the mainstream concept of ESs. per promuovere il mainstreaming del concetto dei SE (see the scheme below). 

If we try to specify more to the basins or hydrology management, many studies call for a paradigm shift. Pahl-Woostls (2007,2008,2011) summarise the paradigms-shifts that you can see in the table below

More in general, the community talks about  “Sustainability Transition” which, in turn, is the scope of the “Sustainability Science”. Citing Clark (2007) “Sustainability Science has emerged over the last two decades as a vibrant field of research and innovation. Today, the field has developed a core research agenda, an increasing flow of results, and a growing number of universities committed to teaching its methods and findings. Like ‘‘agricultural science’’ and ‘‘health science,’’ sustainability science is a field defined by the problems it addresses rather than by the disciplines it employs. In particular, the field seeks to facilitate what the National Research Council has called a ‘‘transition toward sustainability,’’ improving society’s capacity to use the earth in ways that simultaneously ‘‘meet the needs of a much larger but stabilizing human population, . . . sustain the life support systems of the planet, and . . . substantially reduce hunger and poverty’’

To conclude, and balance the novel you presented in the previous post, here it is a video, you will certainly enjoy.


Braat, L., and R. de Groot. 2012. The ecosystem services agenda: bridging the worlds of natural science and economics, conservation and development, and public and private policy. Ecosystem Services 1(1):4–15.

Cowling, R. M., B. Egoh, A. T. Knight, P. J. O’Farrell, B. Reyers, M. Rouget, D. J. Roux, A. Welz, and A. Wilhelm-Rechman. 2008. An operational model for mainstreaming ecosystem services for implementation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105(28):9483–9488.

De Groot, R. S., R. Alkemade, L. Braat, L. Hein, and L. Willemen. 2010. Challenges in integrating the concept of ecosystem services and values in landscape planning, management and decision making. Ecological Complexity 7(3):260–272.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and human well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DC.

Pahl-Wostl, C., M. Craps, A. Dewulf, E. Mostert, D. Tabara, and T. Taillieu. 2007. Social learning and water resources management. Ecology and Society 12(2).

Pahl-wostl, C., E. Mostert, and D. Tàbara. 2008. The Growing Importance of Social Learning in Water Resources Management and Sustainability Science. Ecology and Society 13(1).

Pahl-Wostl, C., P. Jeffrey, N. Isendahl, and M. Brugnach. 2011. Maturing the New Water Management Paradigm: Progressing from Aspiration to Practice. Water Resources Management 25(3):837–856.

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