Envisioning Ways Forward for the Ecosystem Services Debate

E.H. van der Zanden, A.P.E. van Oudenhoven, M. Schröter

Research output: Non-textual formWeb publication/site


Ecosystem services are a contested but useful concept for highlighting the benefits that humans get from healthy ecosystems and landscapes. A relatively new term, “ecosystem services” has become an increasingly popular concept to demonstrate how global biodiversity loss and land degradation have led to decreasing natural provision of critical services, such as fresh water, food and coastal protection. The origin of the ecosystem service concept can be traced back to the late 1970s – its science is a relatively young and continuously evolving field. Since the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, research on ecosystem services has skyrocketed all around the world, and we are also part of this ‘boom’. We have found that ecosystem services provide an increasingly useful framework, both within and outside of scientific disciplines. However, it remains heavily contested and criticized due, in part, to its interdisciplinary nature. Critical debates are essential for the development of the science and practices around ecosystem services, but critics often fail to contribute to possible answers or alternatives. The quality and outcome of an informed debate depends on inputs from both opponents and proponents of the concept. Therefore, we aimed to structure the debate, by compiling several recurring critiques as well as counter-arguments in a paper that was recently published in the journal Conservation Letters
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLandscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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