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  • 2023LinneyPhD

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Building the foundations of sustainable environmental management: Understanding the influence of natural capital on ecosystem services

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2023
Number of pages225
Awarding Institution
  • Harrison, Paula, Supervisor, External person
  • Henrys, Peter, Supervisor
  • Blackburn, George, Supervisor
Award date7/02/2023
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Global indicators of ecosystem extent and condition have declined by 47%, relative to their earliest estimated states. Natural capital is the worlds’ stocks of these natural assets, which supply a wide range of ecosystem services that directly or indirectly produce value for people. This decline in our natural capital is likely to have repercussions for the ecosystem services it supplies. To support and inform sustainable and effective environmental management decisions for the provision of our vital ecosystem services we must fully understand the linkages between them and natural capital. Yet many existing approaches only assess a limited number of ecosystem services and natural capital assets, and therefore miss important synergies and trade-offs. Furthermore, there has been very little exploration into the context dependency of these linkages and the evidence underlying them; natural capital to ecosystem service linkages may be of different relevance to decision makers depending on their desired application.
This thesis follows the creation of the Linking Natural Capital Attribute Groups to Ecosystem Services (LiNCAGES) platform to support collation, exploration and synthesis of evidence on linkages between natural capital and ecosystem services and its communication in environmental decision making. The thesis shows how the LiNCAGES platform allows for the holistic investigation of natural capital and ecosystem service linkages while accounting for the context dependency of a user’s decisions. Furthermore, this thesis reveals how accounting for relationships between multiple natural capital attributes can reveal new indirect trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services and how these are affected by context dependency. Additionally, the thesis highlights the importance of understanding the strengths and limitations of evidence on natural capital that underpins maps of ecosystem service provision, which are frequently used to support environmental decisions. Maps of present and future ecosystem service provision created using evidence from the literature, expert scoring and an existing model were found to vary considerably by the region, ecosystem service, and future scenario mapped.
The work presented in this thesis provides new insight into the complexities and context dependencies in natural capital to ecosystem service linkages and relationships between natural capital attributes, as well as in the evidence used to communicate such linkages via ecosystem service provision maps. This deeper understanding contributes to the support of sustainable and effective environmental management decisions necessary for the preservation of our vital ecosystem services.