Integrating stakeholder perspectives into environmental planning through social valuation of ecosystem services: Guidance and Prototype Applications

Authors and Affiliations: 

A. Walz, Univ. of Potsdam
K. Schmidt, University of Potsdam
R. Noebel, University of Potsdam
C. Bullock, University College Dublin
G. Cojocaru, TIAMASG Foundation, Romania
M.J. Collier, University College Dublin, Ireland
A. de Vries Lentsch, University of Edinburgh, UK
A. Dyankov, WWF Bulgaria, Bulgaria
L. Ingwall-King, UNEP-WCMC, UK
D. Joyce, University College Dublin, Ireland
J. Lascurain, Consultora de Servicios Globales Medioambientales, Barcelona, Spain
S. Lavorel, CNRS, Grenoble, France
N. Marba, IMEDEA, Spain
M. Metzger, University of Edinburgh, UK
I. Rosário, University of Lisbon, Portugal
A. Ruiz-Frau, IMEDEA, Spain
S. Scholte, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, NL

Corresponding author: 
Ariane Walz

Within the framework of an ecosystem service assessment, socio-cultural valuation has the potential to make people´s perception and preferences visible for decision-making processes. Socio-cultural values usually depend largely on the personal perception of individuals, and shared principles of a society. Socio-cultural valuation goes beyond the domain of markets and exchange values often associated with the ecosystem service concept. It gives affected people a voice, and can increase acceptance and success of environmental planning by fostering synergetic solutions. But the large variety of formats and techniques makes it difficult for decision-makers and planners to decide for appropriate options.

Here, we deduce step-wise guidance to set up social valuation assessments for local authorities, natural resource managers and planners, and introduce a catalogue of exemplary prototype applications based on a series of transdisciplinary empirical studies. These ten studies include terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems; they include rural as well as urban settings, and are located at different parts of Europe. They all were set up in close collaboration with local decision-makers and stakeholders and ultimately aimed at making the ecosystem service concept operational in these varying concrete situations.

Main steps identified towards a tailor-made social valuation procedure include (1) the identification of the purpose and specific objectives for the study, (2) the identification of stakeholders and addressees, (3) considerations about the appropriate format, and (4) selection of coherent methods for the specific purpose. From our empirical experience, we distinguish between three main purposes. Amongst them are, for instance, the assessment of the “current value” of an ecosystem and its services and “preference for the future”. Going exemplarily into more detail in the “current values”, we distinguish further between specific objectives, such as the “identification” of the current value, its “quantitative measurement” and the “understanding of the underlying reasoning” for the social value. Steps (2), (3) and (4) were similarly detailed out based on the empirical experience and the scientific literature. The ten prototype applications provide illustrative examples including concrete results (e.g. hotspot maps, user preferences of comparing options) and how the information provided have been, or will be used by the local decision-makers.

With this empirically based guidance, the integration of perception and preferences in local to regional-scale ecosystem services assessment and the use of the ecosystem service concept in operational decision-making should be facilitated.



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