The importance of scale in the development of ecosystem service indicators?

Norton, Lisa ORCID:; Greene, Sheila; Scholefield, Paul ORCID:; Dunbar, Mike. 2016 The importance of scale in the development of ecosystem service indicators? Ecological Indicators, 61 (1). 130-140.

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Understanding the interactions between ecosystems and their underlying environmental constraints, the services which they provide, and the people benefiting from those services, are essential for the effective management and sustainability of socio-ecosystems (ecosystems which support and are impacted upon by humans). Ecosystem service (ES) indicators attempt to provide a means of measuring service provision, but the scale at which they are developed is likely to impact on how they can be used to influence the effective management of socio-ecosystems. This paper compares science and practice in the development of service measures at contrasting scales in: (a) an active research project, focused on local catchment management to improve water quality at Loweswater in the English Lake District, and (b) a science-based study developing national scale indicators of water quality using the Countryside Survey dataset. The paper explores different approaches taken towards the production of ecological measures, which inform on either single or multiple ES delivery across the land/water interface, dependent on scale. It considers how scale impacts on the process of gathering data and on the types of data which can contribute to ES indicators. It further reflects on how service indicators representing different scales of study may be used and by whom. Local scales, in this case the catchment scale, provide a valuable socio-ecological unit for exploring ES delivery, but the extent to which ecosystem service indicators may be used by local actors is uncertain. Larger scale studies may be confined to single services by virtue of data availability but can provide useful policy tools for targeting action. The paper concludes that ‘scale’ is an important consideration when developing ES indicators. It also concludes that questions around the utility of such indicators should consider the relevance of scale and how it relates to governance.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Acreman
ISSN: 1470-160X
Additional Keywords: scale, modelling, ecosystem services, stakeholder engagement, interdisciplinary science
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 22 Oct 2015 14:03 +0 (UTC)

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