Thinking about ecosystem services

On Faculty of 1000, Elena Bennett identifies an interesting new paper on ecosystem services – Defining and classifying ecosystem services for decision making by Brendan Fisher, RK Turner, and P Morling in Ecological Economics (2009 68:643-653: doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.09.014).  Elena writes:

Building on the Millennium Assessment and other ecosystem services literature, the authors of this paper develop a new definition of ecosystem services that strives to bring together the economic and ecological understandings of the concept. What I find interesting is how well the authors are able to integrate the ecological and economic literature on ecosystem services, as well as their discussion of the aspects of ecosystem services that make ecosystem service classification schemes difficult.

Many definitions and classification systems of ecosystem services exist, and there is surprisingly little agreement across the literature about these definitions and classifications. Furthermore, scientists are sometimes not clear about the definitions of or assumptions about ecosystem services on which they base their studies. The authors of this paper move the community closer to what may be an agreeable definition of ecosystem services. They also provide a very useful discussion of the various aspects of ecosystem services that might be important in classification schemes, such as public-private good aspects, spatial and temporal dynamism, joint production, complexity, and interactions.

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