Participatory Approaches to Ecosystem Service Assessment

An important component of my project is the involvement of stakeholders in creating the scenarios for 2050. Hopefully my connections with the Welland Rivers Trust and Welland Valley Partnership will enable me to interact with a diverse range of stakeholders; but why bother?

With the rapidly expanding capability to model ecosystem services comes a set of ‘caveats’ or ‘responsibilities’ that the modeller must keep in mind in order for the assessments to be meaningful (Daily et al. 2009). Chief amongst these is the necessity to include the ‘human’ factor (Turner et al. 2016).

Deterministic and process based models such as InVEST and LUCI are incredibly powerful tools for creating spatially explicit output on the condition and value of ecosystem services (Bagstad et al. 2013, Sharps et al. 2017). But, despite much valuable work having been completed using these models Turner et al. (2016) still identify a significant knowledge gap in terms of assessing the social context along with the human demand for services. The challenge for researchers is to move away from the top left corner of figure 1 and move towards to centre / bottom right.

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Figure 1 – Taken from Turner et al. (2016): The socio-ecological system and ecosystem service modelling.

This is no easy task, but one way of making progress in this area, specific to studies that model alternative futures, is to involve stakeholders in the creation of scenarios (Turner et al. 2016). This is the exact approach I will be taking in my project. It is always validating (and encouraging) when you find support for your methods in the literature! The final word from Turner et al. (2016).

“Participatory modeling in this context is a powerful tool of stakeholder capacity building and an instrument for ‘leveling the playing field’ that creates potential for consensus and trust”



Bagstad, K.J., Semmens, D.J. and Winthrop, R. (2013) ‘Comparing approaches to spatially explicit ecosystem service modeling: A case study from the San Pedro River, Arizona’, Ecosystem Services, 5, pp. 40-50

Daily, G.C., Polasky, S., Goldstein, J., Kareiva, P.M., Mooney, H.A., Pejchar, L., Ricketts, T.H., Salzman, J. and Shallenberger, R. (2009) ‘Ecosystem Services in Decision Making: Time to Deliver’, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7(1), pp. 21-28

Sharps, K., Masante, D., Thomas, A., Jackson, B., Redhead, J., May, L., Prosser, H., Cosby, B., Emmett, B. and Jones, L. (2017) ‘Comparing strengths and weaknesses of three ecosystem services modelling tools in a diverse UK river catchment’, Science of The Total Environment, 584–585, pp. 118-130

Turner, K.G., Anderson, S., Gonzales-Chang, M., Costanza, R., Courville, S., Dalgaard, T., Dominati, E., Kubiszewski, I., Ogilvy, S., Porfirio, L., Ratna, N., Sandhu, H., Sutton, P.C., Svenning, J., Turner, G.M., Varennes, Y., Voinov, A. and Wratten, S. (eds.) (2016) A review of methods, data, and models to assess changes in the value of ecosystem services from land degradation and restoration. Ecological Modelling, 319, p. 190-207


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