Policy ForumBiodiversity and Ecosystems

Assessing nature's contributions to people

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Science  19 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 270-272
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8826

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  • IPBES: Don’t throw out the baby whilst keeping the bathwater; Put people’s values central, not nature’s contributions
    • Jasper Kenter, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), Deliberative Ecological Economics, University of York

    Replacing ecosystem services by NCP does little to address the basic semantic problems associated with ecosystem services. The ‘new’ term still characterises the relation between nature and people as one-way and the value of nature as instrumental (as a provider of benefits), masking human agency and broader values. By replacing ecosystem services with a near-synonymous term, IPBES ditches the baby (the successful term ecosystem services), whilst keeping the dirty bathwater (the problems with the term). This distracts from the otherwise much-improved comprehensiveness of its valuation framework in terms of pluralism. To be genuinely inclusive, IPBES should use an altogether different headline terminology that centres around people’s values and makes objects of value such as ecosystem services subsidiary. This allows diverse conceptions of human-nature relating and plural values of nature to genuinely stand on a par, whilst not ditching the baby. In the end, we can only integrate values in environmental governance, not services or contributions — ultimately it is the societal importance ascribed to nature that matters.

    I develop this argument in more detail in a recent open access publication in Ecosystem Services, accessible freely at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.08.002

    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • IPBES: Don’t throw out the baby whilst keeping the bathwater; Put people’s values central, not nature’s contributions
    • Jasper O Kenter, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), Deliberative Ecological Economics, University of York

    Kenter, J.O., 2018. IPBES: Don’t throw out the baby whilst keeping the bathwater; Put people’s values central, not nature’s contributions. Ecosystem Services 33, 40–43.

    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.08.002
    (open access)

    Abstract:

    IPBES has replaced the term ‘ecosystem services’ with ‘nature’s contributions to people’. This make-over does little to address the semantic problems associated with ecosystem services. The ‘new’ term still characterises the relation between nature and people as one-way and the value of nature as instrumental (as a provider of benefits), masking human agency and broader values. By replacing ecosystem services with a near-synonymous term, IPBES ditches the baby (the successful term ecosystem services), whilst keeping the dirty bathwater (the problems with the term). This distracts from the otherwise much-improved comprehensiveness of its valuation framework in terms of pluralism. To be genuinely inclusive, IPBES should use an altogether different headline terminology that centres around people’s values and makes objects of value such as ecosystem services subsidiary. This allows diverse conceptions of human-nature relating and plural values of nature to genuinely stand on a par, whilst not ditching the baby. In the end, we can only integrate values in environmental governance, not services or contributions — ultimately it is the societal importance ascrib...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Connecting time and space to assess nature’s contributions to people. An interdisciplinary example integrating forest science, geography and history.
    • Roberto Pilli, Scientific officier, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Directorate D - Sustainable Resources - Bio-Economy Unit, Ispra, VA (Italy)
    • Other Contributors:
      • Andrea Pase, Professor, Università di Padova, Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Geografiche e dell’Antichità, Padova (Italy)

    One of the main criticisms highlighted by Diaz et al. (2018) on the ecosystem service concept is the progressive exclusion of social and human sciences from studies based on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment system, dominated by aspects of natural sciences and economics. To counterbalance this dominance, Diaz and colleagues suggest to adopt a more inclusive approach, moving from the concept of ecosystem services to nature’s contribution to people’s (NCP) quality of life. The overall, fully sharable, objective is to widen the range of the disciplines involved, recognizing the additional value generated by an inter-disciplinary approach.
    With this approach in mind, we can recall that ecosystem services represent the bridge between humans and nature, interacting with each other in a different way “depending on the cultural, socioeconomic, temporal and spatial context” (Diaz et al., 2018). This implies a dynamic approach. However in our opinion, at least looking to Table S2, this aspect is still not adequately considered by the authors when suggesting some possible examples of NCP. Both the examples proposed describe indigenous people and local communities through what appears to be a static, extemporal picture, rather than a dynamic cultural context that is affected by a continuous change due to contaminations and hybridizations by modern practices (Eriksen, 2016). History matters!
    Along those same lines, a consistent analysis of the spatial scale (i.e. local, r...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Connecting people’s contributions to nature to nature's contributions to people
    • Garry Peterson, Professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

    by Garry D. Peterson 1, Zuzana V. Harmackova 1, Megan Meacham 1, Cibele Queiroz 1, Amanda Jiménez Aceituno 1, Jan J. Kuiper 1, Katja Malmborg 1, Nadia E. Sitas 2 and Elena M. Bennett 3,4

    1Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden, 2Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa, 3Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Canada 4McGill School of Environment, McGill University, Canada

    Diaz et al’s (2018) proposal of a paradigm shift from the concept of “ecosystem services” to “nature’s contributions to people” has sparked a rapid reaction from a number of influential ecosystem services researchers (response here, Bratt 2018, Maes et al. 2018). While debate is useful to advance scientific ideas, cohesion is useful to mobilize support for scientific activities. Such support is needed to secure the international commitment necessary to adequately fund the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) at a time when it would benefit from greater capacities (Balvanera et al 2017).

    Broad international processes such as IPBES should play a central role bridging different knowledge systems and building international communities of practice. However, Diaz et al (2018) propose a “universally applicable set of categories of flows from nature to people.” As sustainability scientists who work with diverse groups of practitioners and policy-makers, we are skeptical that an...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: There is more to Nature’s Contributions to People than Ecosystem Services – A response to de Groot et al.
    • Sandra Díaz, Professor and senior principal investigator, CONICET and Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina

    By Sandra Díaz,* Unai Pascual,* Marie Stenseke, Berta Martín-López, Robert T. Watson, Zsolt Molnár, Rosemary Hill, Kai M.A Chan, Ivar A. Baste, Kate A. Brauman, Stephen Polasky, Andrew Church, Mark Lonsdale, Anne Larigauderie, Paul W. Leadley, Alexander P.E. van Oudenhoven, Felice van der Plaat, Matthias Schröter, Sandra Lavorel, Yildiz Aumeeruddy-Thomas, Elena Bukvareva, Kirsten Davies, Sebsebe Demissew, Gunay Erpul, Pierre Failler, Carlos A. Guerra, Chad L. Hewitt, Hans Keune, Sarah Lindley, Yoshihisa Shirayama

    *corresponding authors - Email: sandra.diaz@unc.edu.ar; unai.pascual@bc3research.org

    We share many of the views of de Groot et al. on the relevance of ecosystem services (ES) and the constructive role they have played in highlighting the importance of nature to people. Here we aim to further clarify how the concept of Nature’s Contribution to People (NCP) contributes to science and policy.

    It was not the aim of our article to review the literature on ecosystem services (ES). The point of our article was to explain the concept of NCP not to review the extensive ES literature. We are in full agreement that the influence of ES has been long and rich, from its first mention in the peer-reviewed literature (1) to the present. As explicitly stated in our articles (2, 3) and further clarified in our figure S1, the IPBES approach owes much to the influence...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Did Mother Nature consent in the human ‘appropriation’ of ‘gifts’ so sweet, or would a #MeToo hashtag get flooded if she could tweet?
    • Meine van Noordwijk, Biologist, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); Wageningen University (the Netherlands); Brawijaya University (Malang, Indonesia)

    Servant, Mother, Capitalist,
    We speak of Nature with a twist.
    Primogeniture, as lastborns we claim to be first,
    with insatiable land hunger and blue water thirst,
    We appropriate all resources that are known,
    and happily call all of this planet our own.
    Gifts of mother nature, servant ecosystems, all
    Natural capital as synonyms, spring, summer, and fall?
    Come winter the planet is as bounded,
    as our rationality claim is ill-founded.

    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Ecosystem Services are Nature’s Contributions to People

    By Rudolf de Groot, Robert Costanza, Leon Braat, Luke Brander, Benjamin Burkhard, Luis Carrasco, Neville Crossman, Benis Egoh, Davide Geneletti, Bernd Hansjuergens, Lars Hein, Sander Jacobs, Ida Kubiszewski, Beria Leimona, Bai-Lian Li, Junguo Liu, Sandra Luque, Joachim Maes, Christo Marais, Simone Maynard, Luca Montanarella, Simon Moolenaar, Carl Obst, Marcela Quintero, Osamu Saito, Fernando Santos-Martin, Paul Sutton, Pieter van Beukering, Martine van Weelden, Louise Willemen

    In their article, Diaz et al present the concept of nature's contributions to people (NCP) as ‘building on’ but ‘extending beyond’ the concept of ecosystem services (ES). However, a hurried and top-down introduction of NCP as if it were a ‘new’ term risks plunging the large and diverse ES/NCP community into unnecessary paralysing debates and will confuse policy makers and practitioners. NCP is a political compromise and not a new scientific concept. It aligns with earlier definitions of ecosystem services to describe human dependence on nature (e.g. TEEB ). To strengthen scientific cohesion and societal impact, the terms NCP and ES must be regarded as the synonyms they are, and used appropriately for different audiences and purposes.
    IPBES builds on the thousands of ecosystem services papers and assessments that have been produced over the last decades which the Diaz et al. paper does not adequately acknowledge. Over 125 nations, many indigenous peoples, thousands of scientists, a...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Partnership models will increase indigenous people’s contribution to science
    • Amanda Black, Scientist - BioProtection, BioProtection Research Centre, Lincoln University, New Zealand
    • Other Contributors:
      • Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, Researcher - social and indigenous, BioProtection Research Centre, Lincoln University, New Zealand
      • Nicholas William Waipara, Scientist, Plant and Food Research, New Zealand

    Diaz et al. (1) outline the modified IPBES framework which addresses the need for cultural and diverse sources of knowledge. While this is an improvement on the original ‘ecosystem services’ model, a major drawback and consequence for both policy makers and indigenous communities contributing to such a framework, arises from inadequate resourcing and protection of indigenous people and their knowledge. We argue that for models like the new IPBES framework to be successful they must provide adequate resourcing in line with mainstream disciplines as well as provide adequate intellectual property protection for indigenous communities.
    We highlight a recent example from New Zealand, which attempted to implement a bicultural management programme (2). It aimed to include and implement indigenous knowledge in research for the protection of a culturally iconic tree species, the New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis), from an introduced pathogen Phytophthora agathidicida (3, 4). A bicultural approach was sought as A. australis extinction could disestablish community cultural identity (5). Nevertheless, disproportionately less resourcing (6) has been given to elevate or implement indigenous knowledge in managing these forests from extinction. Additionally, there was a lack of formalized intellectual property protection to safeguard community knowledge from exploitation, which directly contravened UN rights for indigenous people (7, 8). This disparity of resourcing and adequat...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Shifts, drifts and options- A response to Faith
    • Sandra Díaz, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba
    • Other Contributors:
      • Unai Pascual, Basque Centre for Climate Change, Sede Building 1, 1st floor, Scientific Campus of the University of the Basque Country
      • Marie Stenseke, Unit for Human Geography, Department of Economy and Society, School of Economics Business and Law, University of Gothenburg
      • Berta Martín-López, Leuphana University, Faculty of Sustainability, Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research
      • Robert T. Watson, Tyndall Center Department of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
      • Zsolt Molnár, MTA Centre for Ecological Research Institute of Ecology and Botany
      • Rosemary Hill, CSIRO Land and Water and James Cook University Division of Tropical Environments & Societies
      • Kai M.A Chan, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
      • Ivar A. Baste, The Folgefonn-Centre
      • Kate A. Brauman, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
      • Stephen Polasky, Department of Applied Economics/Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota
      • Andrew Church, School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton.
      • Mark Lonsdale, Monash University and Charles Darwin University
      • Anne Larigauderie, The Intergovernment Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
      • Paul W. Leadley, ESE Laboratory, Univ. Paris-Saclay / CNRS / AgroParisTech
      • Alexander P.E. van Oudenhoven, Institute of Environmental Sciences CML, Leiden University
      • Felice van der Plaat, The Intergovernment Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
      • Matthias Schröter, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Ecosystem Services
      • Sandra Lavorel, Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, CNRS - Université Grenoble Alpes
      • Yildiz Aumeeruddy-Thomas, CNRS, Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, UMR5175, Biocultural Interactions (IBC) team
      • Elena Bukvareva, Biodiversity Conservation Center, ul. Vavilova
      • Kirsten Davies, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University
      • Sebsebe Demissew, Department of Plant Biology & Biodiversity Management, College of Natural Sciences, Addis Ababa University
      • Gunay Erpul, Ankara University Faculty of Agriculture Department of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition
      • Pierre Failler, Blue Governance Research Group, Portsmouth business School, University of Portsmouth
      • Carlos A. Guerra, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
      • Chad L. Hewid, School of Science and Environmental Research Institute, University of Waikato
      • Hans Keune, Belgian Biodiversity Platform - Research Institute Nature & Forest (INBO)
      • Sarah Lindley, Department of Geography, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester
      • Yoshihisa Shirayama, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology

    Daniel Faith makes several very good points. We deal with only one of them in this short response, the role of biodiversity as a source of options for people now and in the future. We agree with Faith that biodiversity at all scales, from local to global, is critically important for humans in the face of the unknown, and for the future production of nature’s contributions to people (NCP) (1). We also agree that NCP in the face of the unknown should include both those associated with particular components of biodiversity, and those related to the continued existence of the variety of life. One of our categories of NCP indeed addresses these two aspects. “Maintenance of options” (NCP 18 within the generalizing perspective, Table S1) refers to the capacity of ecosystems, habitats, species or genotypes to keep options open in order to support a good quality of life. This includes the future benefits or threats derived from particular genes, organisms, groups of organisms or ecosystems, be they still unknown or already known but their future uses as yet undiscovered. NCP 18 also includes the contributions of all species, populations and genotypes to processes for coping with environmental uncertainty, such as the resilience and resistance of ecosystems in the face of environmental change and variability. Finally, it recognises future benefits or threats that may be anticipated from ongoing biological evolution, including rapid contemporary evolution. Using the eloquent metaphor...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • IPBES and paradigm drifts

    Diaz et al. (1) observe that much of the follow-up work on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) (2) has been narrowly focused on ecological production functions, neglecting cultural aspects. They argue that “nature’s contributions to people” (NCP) (3), recognizes how culture “permeates” through other NCP, overcoming the MA’s treatment of culture in “an isolated category”. However, this promotion of NCP as a “new approach” risks missing an opportunity for IPBES assessments to build on the MA’s (4) similar messages that cultural services “cannot be treated independently”, they permeate through the other services, and “social context” is important. Thus, the task now is not so much what Diaz et al. call “nurturing a paradigm shift”, as “repairing a paradigm drift” where enthusiasm for ecological production functions is over-shadowing other aspects.

    The MA (2) discussed many benefits of nature, including “option value” as a direct benefit of biodiversity (5). However, the follow-up work has even narrowly re-cast the MA as focused on ecosystem services from ecological production functions (e.g. 6). Here, “biodiversity” is interpreted as supporting ecological functions, supposedly giving it recognized anthropocentric value for the first time (5). This reveals another critical paradigm drift, neglecting the clear recognition by the MA, and other studies going back fifty years (5), of biotic diversity’s global benefit to people through option value. This paradigm drift...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Contributions of the Sun must be considered in nature's contributions to people

    Sandra Diaz et al. wrote an article entitled "Accessing nature's contributions to people" (1). Mother earth is not standalone. Nature's contributions must include contributions of the Sun while Sandra's paper did not take account of the Sun's contributions. The Sun not only provides energy to the earth but also a variety of benefits to people (2, 3). Sunshine is important in plant growth because the heat and the light required by all growing plants are supplied by solar radiation (4). Without the Sun's contributions, the term, "nature's contributions to people" (NCP) may mislead.

    References:
    1. Sandra Diaz et al., "Accessing nature's contributions to people," Science, 19 Jan 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 270-272
    2. https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/dieting/15-reasons-sun-good-you-623393
    3. Catherline Ellen Foley, "Scientists have found yet another reason for you to get some sun this winter,"
    https://qz.com/868059/blue-light-from-sunlight-helps-improve-the-immune-...
    4. Andrew H. Palmer, "THE AGRICULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF SUNSHINE AS ILLUSTRATED IN CALIFORNIA,"
    ...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.