SYMP 10-2
Ecosystem service indicators: Moving beyond supply to assessing the consequences for human wellbeing

Wednesday, August 7, 2013: 8:30 AM
M100EF, Minneapolis Convention Center
Belinda Reyers, CSIR, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Heather Tallis, Office of Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, VA
Jeanne Nel, CSIR, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Natural Capital Project, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Steve Polasky, Department of Applied Economics and Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
Patricia Balvanera, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico
Patrick O' Farrell, CSIR, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Juan Pablo Castaneda, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala, Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (ICEFI), Colonia Oakland, Guatemala
Odirilwe Selomane, CSIR, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Daniel S. Karp, Environmental Science Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

As ecosystem services take centre stage in science and policy arenas, ecosystem service indicators have become a topic of major interest. Currently many indicators measure the levels of ecosystem services provided by an area (e.g. litres of water), but do not provide an indication of the actual benefits gained by people. This gap represents a major obstacle to developing the necessary understanding and evidence base of the consequences of changes in services for human wellbeing. In this talk we share our experiences in piloting a spatial approach to national ecosystem service indicator development which is focussed on addressing the consequences for human wellbeing. Our study focuses on a set of ecosystem services relevant to social development, these being: water supply, drought mitigation, forage provision, water regulation and soil protection. The approach is based on a framework which links each service to a set of beneficiaries, and outlines the key elements of ecosystem service production functions that allows the coupling of supply-response relationships to measure current condition, as well as past and future trends. In parallel to this process, data on beneficiary groups, needs and wellbeing are spatially expressed and linked to the relevant service(s) to explore the links between supply and benefits.


We find the lack of ecologically-based production functions a major impediment to monitoring change in ecosystem services, and highlight some of the potential offered by social and census datasets especially in the identification of beneficiary groups, and their needs and wellbeing. We also demonstrate the value of moving away from a focus on provisioning services, to one that focuses on regulating services associated with production and livelihood systems. We finally explore some of the remaining data and methodological gaps and challenges, especially the need to design ecological and social datasets for better integration. This approach demonstrates the possibility of going beyond measures of biophysical supply to sets of related multi-sector indicators for specific ecosystem services that capture biophysical processes and functions, service values and human wellbeing dimensions for each of these, thereby enhancing our ability to appropriately monitor ecosystem service change and its implications for society, human wellbeing and poverty alleviation.