The Ecosystem Services Discourse

Archie J Crofton
Thursday, 27th February 2014
The Ecosystem Services Discourse

I am a master student in the program “Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science” (LUMES) at Lund University and am currently writing my thesis within OPERAs under the supervision of Kim Nicholas. The working title of my thesis is “The Ecosystem Services Discourse – Perceptions of the concept and implications for its OPERAtionalisation.

Within literature, the ecosystem services concept has much been debated and criticised as a concept with mixed interpretations that inhibit a successful use of the concept in practice. It has often been noted that the concept lacks common theoretical ground and therefore makes interdisciplinary as well as transdisciplinary collaboration difficult or even impossible. 

OPERAs as a project therefore has an ambitious objective: to not only make interdisciplinary collaboration around the concept work but “to move beyond the academic domain towards practical implementation [of the ecosystem services concept] in support of sustainable ecosystem management” (OPERAs official project description). 

Based on the critical debate in literature, the aim of my thesis is to find out i) if understandings of the concept are really that different among OPERAs participants and ii) how to cope with these potential differences in order to ensure successful operationalisation.

In a first step, I would like to catch the variety of perspectives on the concept using Q-methodology, an approach that is associated with discourse analysis. By sorting statements into an order that best models their personal perspective, participants get to reflect on their own understanding of the concept and at the same time construct an image of their perspective that is comparable to those of others.

Due to reasons of manageability and the idea behind Q-methodology to work with a small number of respondents (typically 12-20), I selected participants based on a range of aspects to ensure a diversity of perspectives. Invitations to participate in the sorting exercise have recently been sent out and I am hoping very much to hear back from all the participants. I will keep you updated on my research progress through this blog and will of course provide my final results to OPERAs participants. For now: Happy sorting! ;)