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Scenarios for Ecosystem Services: An Overview

Stephen R Carpenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Elena M Bennett, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Garry D Peterson, McGill University


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The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) scenarios address changes in ecosystem services and their implications for human well-being. Ecological changes pose special challenges for long-term thinking, because of the possibility of regime shifts that occur rapidly yet alter the availability of ecosystem services for generations. Moreover, ecological feedbacks can intensify human modification of ecosystems, creating a spiral of poverty and ecosystem degradation. Such complex dynamics were evaluated by a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analyses in the MA scenarios. Collectively, the scenarios explore problems such as the connections of poverty reduction and ecosystem services, and trade-offs among ecosystem services. Several promising approaches are considered by the scenarios, including uses of biodiversity to build resilience of ecosystem services, actively adaptive management, and green technology. Although the scenarios do not prescribe an optimal path, they illuminate the consequences of different policies toward ecosystem services.

Key words

adaptive governance; ambiguity; ecological change; ecosystem services; poverty reduction; regime shift; resilience; response diversity; scenarios, uncertainty
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087