Notes from the field: Lessons learned from using ecosystem service approaches to inform real-world decisions

Mary Ruckelshaus, Emily McKenzie, Heather Tallis, Anne Guerry, Gretchen Daily, Peter Kareiva, Stephen Polasky, Taylor Ricketts, Nirmal Bhagabati, Spencer A. Wood, Joanna Bernhardt

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454 Scopus citations


While there have been rapid advances in assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES), a critical remaining challenge is how to move from scientific knowledge to real-world decision making. We offer 6 lessons from our experiences applying new approaches and tools for quantifying BES in 20 pilot demonstrations: (1) Applying a BES approach is most effective in leading to policy change as part of an iterative science-policy process; (2) simple ecological production function models have been useful in a diverse set of decision contexts, across a broad range of biophysical, social, and governance systems. Key limitations of simple models arise at very small scales, and in predicting specific future BES values; (3) training local experts in the approaches and tools is important for building local capacity, ownership, trust, and long-term success; (4) decision makers and stakeholders prefer to use a variety of BES value metrics, not only monetary values; (5) an important science gap exists in linking changes in BES to changes in livelihoods, health, cultural values, and other metrics of human wellbeing; and (6) communicating uncertainty in useful and transparent ways remains challenging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Economics
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 The Authors.


  • Decision support
  • Ecosystem services
  • Human development and conservation
  • PES
  • Spatial planning


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