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Do ecosystem services approaches change conservation?

1-s2.0-S0921800914X0011X-cov150hMy latest paper with Janet Fisher published in Ecological Economics seeks to empirically address this question. The paper uses Q method and qualitative interviews with representatives of international and Ugandan conservation organisations. Our analysis finds that ecosystem services concepts are often adopted for instrumental imperatives, in order to broaden constituencies and with an expectation of extending funding sources.

But the study importantly uncovers concerns within conservation that the utilitarian emphases of ecosystem services concepts may compromise the ability to make non-utilitarian arguments for nature in the future. In terms of changing practice, we examine shifts in partnerships and funding, where ecosystem service ideas provide a shared language about flows of value, apparently accelerating the integration of conservation and the private sector. Whilst many respondents noted the significance of shifts related to ecosystem services ideas, some attempted to play these down, presenting their organisation’s adoption of these ideas as ‘just a rhetorical tool’.

The adoption of ecosystem services concepts cannot be presented as solely rhetorical, given that these increasingly underpin and inform planning tools and policy instruments. So ecosystem services approaches are changing conservation – they are influential and are gaining momentum internationally.

Ecosystem services concepts and approaches in conservation: Just a rhetorical tool?

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