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Adapting Human Well-being Frameworks for Ecosystem Service Assessments across Diverse Landscapes

Amy Villamagna, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech
Craig Giesecke, Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Graduate Program, University of Maryland


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There is broad support for the notion that ecosystem services influence human well-being (HWB), however, the means to measure such an effect are elusive. Measures of HWB are commonly used within the fields of psychology, economics, and international development, but thus far have not been integrated fully into ecosystem service assessments. We examine the multidimensional nature of HWB and discuss the need for a robust framework that captures its complex relationship with ecosystem services. We review several well-known HWB indices and describe the adaptation of two frameworks—the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality of Life Index and the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework—to evaluate county-level HWB within the Albemarle–Pamlico Basin (Virginia and North Carolina, USA) using a stakeholder-engaged approach. We present maps of HWB that illustrate the results of both frameworks, discuss the feedback from stakeholders that guided indicator and data selection, and examine the observed differences in HWB throughout the basin. We conclude with suggestions for enhancing the role of ecosystem services in HWB indices.

Key words

Albemarle-Pamlico basin; ecosystem services; human well-being; quality of life

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087