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Ecosystem services: ‘co-product’ of humans and nature

Falkland forest, Fife (c) James Hutton Institute
"The study will help scientists, as well as decision-makers, understand the different ways in which people engage with the ecosystem and ultimately contribute to the production of ecosystem services.

Ecosystem services – the flows of resources such as clean air, water, food, materials and mental restoration – are the product of humans and nature interacting together and have a social dimension that needs to be further investigated, a recent study by social scientists from the James Hutton Institute argues.

Lead author Dr Anke Fischer, from the Institute’s Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group, said: “There seems to be a broad consensus on the notion that benefits from ecosystems are not produced by ecosystems independently, but arise because of people’s interactions with ecosystems. Yet, these interactions have hardly ever been investigated in a way that contributes to the ecosystem services debate.

“In this study, we examined the role of humans in generating ecosystem services and the factors that might help us to understand diversity in these processes.”

Dr Fischer and co-author Dr Antonia Eastwood interviewed users of a mixed woodland–farmland–upland ecosystem in Fife, Scotland, which provided insights into their involvement in a broad range of ecosystem services, particularly around food production and cultural services, but also regarding flood management and other regulatory services. The social nature of the interactions between people and places often created additional meaning and value of the resulting ecosystem services.

Asked about his interaction with nature, one of the interviewees during the study responded: “It is important to carry on using landscape as a landscape, not just as a kind of area for tourism, for visiting, but to be engaged in it and to take part in it. They are not natural landscapes; none of these landscapes are natural in any way. They have been created. They are all man-made, and I think it is good.”

Dr Fischer said the study will help scientists, as well as decision-makers, understand the different ways in which people engage with the ecosystem and ultimately contribute to the production of ecosystem services.

“While further research is needed to explore the usefulness of our analysis in other contexts, our findings suggest that identities and capabilities of people have to be considered much more strongly than is currently the case in standard ecosystem services assessments, as these influence which ecosystem structures are eventually turned into benefits, and give valuable insights into the environmental justice related to the distribution of ecosystem benefits.”

Paper: Coproduction of ecosystem services as human–nature interactions — An analytical framework. Anke Fischer, Antonia Eastwood, Land Use Policy 52 (2016) 41–50.

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Printed from /news/ecosystem-services-%E2%80%98co-product%E2%80%99-humans-and-nature on 22/03/19 03:57:27 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.