So you want your research to be relevant? Building the bridge between ecosystem services research and practice

Lydia Olander, Stephen Polasky, James S. Kagan, Robert J. Johnston, Lisa Wainger, David Saah, Lynn Maguire, James Boyd, David Yoskowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


There is growing demand for information regarding the impacts of decisions on ecosystem services and human benefits. Despite the large and growing quantity of published ecosystem services research, there remains a substantial gap between this research and the information required to support decisions. Research often provides models and tools that do not fully link social and ecological systems; are too complex, specialized, and costly to use; and are targeted to outcomes that differ from those needed by decision makers. Decision makers require cost-effective, straightforward, transferable, scalable, meaningful, and defensible methods that can be readily understood. We provide illustrative examples of these gaps between research and practice and describe how researchers can make their work relevant to decision makers by using Benefit Relevant Indicators (BRIs) and choosing models appropriate for particular decision contexts. We use examples primarily from the United States, including cases that illustrate varying degrees of success in closing these gaps. We include a discussion of the challenges and opportunities researchers face in adapting their work to meet the needs of practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-182
Number of pages13
JournalEcosystem Services
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Co-production
  • Ecosystem models
  • Natural capital
  • Practitioner-focused research


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