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Ecosystem Services are Social–ecological Services in a Traditional Pastoral System: the Case of California’s Mediterranean Rangelands

Lynn Huntsinger, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
José L. Oviedo, Institute of Public Goods and Policies (IPP), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06143-190108

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Abstract

When attempting to value ecosystem services and support their production, two critical aspects may be neglected. The term “ecosystem services” implies that they are a function of natural processes; yet, human interaction with the environment may be key to the production of many. This can contribute to a misconception that ecosystem service production depends on, or is enhanced by, the coercion or removal of human industry. Second, in programs designed to encourage ecosystem service production and maintenance, too often the inter-relationship of such services with social and ecological processes and drivers at multiple scales is ignored. Thinking of such services as “social–ecological services” can reinforce the importance of human culture, perspectives, and economies to the production of ecosystem services. Using a social–ecological systems perspective, we explore the integral role of human activity and decisions at pasture, ranch, and landscape scales. Just as it does for understanding ecosystems, a hierarchical, multiscaled framework facilitates exploring the complexity of social–ecological systems as producers of ecosystem services, to develop approaches for the conservation of such services. Using California’s Mediterranean rangelands as a study area, we suggest that using a multiscaled approach that considers the importance of the differing drivers and processes at each scale and the interactions among scales, and that incorporates social–ecological systems concepts, may help avoid mistakes caused by narrow assumptions about “natural” systems, and a lack of understanding of the need for integrated, multiscaled conservation programs.

Key words

endangered species, landscape, pasture, ranching, scale, social–ecological system, vernal pools
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087