Multi-site interactions: Understanding the offsite impacts of land use change on the use and supply of ecosystem services

Laura J. Sonter, Justin A. Johnson, Charles C. Nicholson, Leif L. Richardson, Keri B. Watson, Taylor H. Ricketts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Managing the impacts of land use change on ecosystem services is essential to secure human wellbeing; but is a task often complicated by landscape-scale spatial dynamics. In this study, we focus on one type of spatial dynamic: multi-site interactions (MSI), which we define to occur when a change in the supply or use of an ecosystem service at one site affects that service at a second site. In search of empirical evidence of MSI, we reviewed 150 papers on one ecosystem service—nature-based recreation. We found many studies assessed impacts of land use change on this ecosystem service, but only 2% of studies quantified changes in its supply or use across multiple sites. Given this limited evidence in the literature, we propose a novel framework to describe the pathways through which MSI emerge and their likely consequences for ecosystem services across multiple sites. We illustrate the utility of this framework for understanding impacts on three other services: crop pollination, fuel wood production and flood mitigation. Obtaining empirical evidence of MSI is an important next step in ecosystem service science, which will help identify when interactions among sites emerge and how they can be best managed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalEcosystem Services
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Crop pollination
  • Flood mitigation
  • Land use change
  • Nature-based recreation
  • Non-timber forest products
  • Spatial dynamics


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