Where is the consensus? A proposed foundation for moving ecosystem service concepts into practice

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Inconsistent terms, definitions, and classifications hinder advancement of the study and application of ecosystem services. A unified approach among disciplines involved in researching and implementing ecosystem services is imperative to moving concepts into practice. An operational definition needs to be adopted by the ecosystem service community as the basis of a classification system so that ecosystem goods and services may be measured by ecologists, valued by economists, and utilized by decision-makers. We propose a transdisciplinary approach centered upon shared principles, an ecosystem services definition, and a classification system. This shared foundation provides a common set of ecosystem goods and services that serves as the focus for and connection among multiple disciplines. This foundation is specific enough to be operational while remaining relevant to a multitude of ecosystem service objectives for which frameworks and implementation plans may be developed. Although numerous ecosystem service frameworks exist in the literature, many of them are non-operational or are focused toward a single discipline. An evaluation of these frameworks identifies knowledge gaps and suggests how we may advance ecosystem services into practice. Our evaluation demonstrates that foundational concepts (especially a definition and classification system, and community involvement) are often poorly addressed in ecosystem service frameworks.


Ecological Economics



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