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Trade-offs in ecosystem services and varying stakeholder preferences: evaluating conflicts, obstacles, and opportunities

Elizabeth King, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia; Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia
Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota; Institute on Environment, University of Minnesota
Patricia Balvanera, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Tuyeni H Mwampamba, Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Stephen Polasky, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota; Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota; Institute on Environment, University of Minnesota

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07822-200325

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Abstract

In efforts to increase human well-being while maintaining the natural systems and processes upon which we depend, navigating the trade-offs that can arise between different ecosystem services is a profound challenge. We evaluated a recently developed simple analytic framework for assessing ecosystem service trade-offs, which characterizes such trade-offs in terms of their underlying biophysical constraints as well as divergences in stakeholders’ values for the services in question. Through a workshop and subsequent discussions, we identified four different types of challenging situations under which the framework allows important insights to clarify the nature of stakeholder conflicts, obstacles to promoting more sustainable outcomes, and potential enabling factors to promote efficiency and sustainability of ecosystem service yields. We illustrated the framework’s analytical steps by applying them to case studies representing three of the challenging situations. We explored the fourth challenging situation conceptually, using published literature for examples. We examined the potential utility and feasibility of using the framework as a participatory tool in resource management and conflict resolution. We concluded that the framework can be instrumental for promoting pluralism and insightful analysis of trade-offs. The insights offered here may be viewed as hypotheses to be tested and refined as additional unforeseen challenges and benefits are revealed as the framework is put into practice.

Key words

biophysical constraint; conflict; ecosystem service; human values; participatory tool; production possibility frontier; sustainability; trade-off; utility

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087