Socio-cultural values of ecosystem services: a review of concepts and methods

Archie Crofton
Tuesday, 14th April 2015
Socio-cultural values of ecosystem services: a review of concepts and methods

In a recently published article, OPERAs researchers Samantha Scholte, Astrid van Teeffelen and Peter Verburg discuss the value of ecosystem services from a socio-cultural perspective.  The article provides a careful review of concepts and methods relevant for the socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services.

The conflation of ‘cultural ecosystem services’ and ‘(socio-)cultural value’

One of the key issues discussed by the authors is the confounding use of the terms ‘cultural ecosystem service’ and ‘(socio-)cultural value’ in environmental research. Whereas cultural ecosystem services are used to refer to the immaterial benefits related to ecosystems, e.g. spirituality and aesthetics, socio-cultural values of ecosystem services can be related to both material and immaterial benefits. People may value an ecosystem for its aesthetic quality, while also appreciating it for the supply of materials and food. To gain better insight into linkages between ecosystems and people it is thus important to focus on all ecosystem service categories, including provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services. Such a wide scope is necessary to identify trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services, providing useful knowledge for spatial planning and environmental policies.

Advancing ecosystem service valuation studies

By clarifying concepts and methods related to socio-cultural values, the authors hope to facilitate a better integration of socio-cultural perspectives into ecosystem service assessments and help researchers to choose methods from the available portfolio.

Link to article: