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Undervalued & Under Pressure: A Plea for Greater Attention Toward Regulating Ecosystem Services

July 11, 2017 |

This paper was originally published on ScienceDirect


  • Regulating ES are undervalued because complexity obscures how they provide benefits.
  • Landscape lens reveals the spatial, temporal, directional nature of regulating ES.
  • Value of regulating ES is clearer through a capacity, demand, pressures framework.

Abstract: Regulating ecosystem services (ES) fundamentally underpin biosphere integrity, human safety, and the provision of most other ES. However, the pathways by which regulating ES generate benefits for people are complex and vary spatially and temporally. Emerging ES decision-making frameworks underemphasize regulating services because they focus on ES that have more obvious links to human wellbeing (e.g., in close proximity to beneficiaries with very short time lags).

Lack of attention towards regulating ES can lead to unintended management trade-offs that create risk for human wellbeing and can cause immediate and delayed impacts on cultural and provisioning ES. Therefore, a remaining challenge for ES frameworks is to address the full ensemble of processes and feedbacks whereby ecosystems contribute to human wellbeing over time, including through regulating services. We address this challenge by (i) reviewing the complexities associated with regulating ES components—capacity, ecological pressures, and demand, (ii) exploring the spatial and temporal variability that influence regulating ES components, including the flow of service benefits, and (iii) illustrating the interdependency of regulating ES components through examples of ES that are linked hydrologically. We conclude that ES capacity, pressure, demand and the flow of benefits are distinct, but intricately linked components that influence how regulating ES provide benefits and improve human wellbeing.

We pose that ES assessment frameworks could be improved by including indicators of regulating ES that differentiate between the capacity to provide a regulating ES, the demand for the same, and the actual service that is conveyed, the latter of which is influenced by underlying capacity and ecological pressure. These indicators should also be spatially and temporally explicit to fully incorporate the dynamic influence of temporal variability, spatial scale, and landscape configuration on regulating ES and the benefits they yield…”

Read on and access the full paper at: ScienceDirect.

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