Ecosystem services as a practicable concept for natural resource management: Some lessons from Australia

Taylor & Francis
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystems Services & Management, 2013, 9 (1), pp. 44 - 53
Issue Date:
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The ecosystem services (ES) concept initially gathered momentum amongst the Australian scientific community in the late 1990s. This article seeks to investigate if the earlier Australian ES research efforts and findings have been adopted and utilised by Australian resource managers, highlighting factors that may have enabled or prevented this adoption. Combining a literature review, interviews and observations from Australian regional planning, we offer a snapshot of resource managers' experiences in engaging with the ES concept. Although based on a small pilot, our results suggest that thinking about biodiversity and ecosystems as providers of economic value has broadly found its way into Australian natural resource management (NRM) practice, but that the `language of ES is not necessarily found new, clear or practicable. Interviewees mentioned the lack of an `ES toolbox, combined with clear national and regional policy drivers, as a major barrier to their broader adoption of the ES concept. For the ES concept to be used meaningfully and effectively at regional and local scales, a concerted effort at the nexus of NRM research, policy and practice will be required to further embed ES thinking in participatory planning processes. We argue that a well-facilitated process of group learning and reasoning about nature's values that is grounded in local knowledge and experience may ultimately better approximate the `true value of a region's natural capital than traditional positivist approaches aimed at comprehensive quantification and valuation of ES.
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