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Disentangling ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘nature’s contributions to people’

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  • Andrew N. Kadykalo
  • María D. López-Rodriguez
  • Jacob Ainscough
  • Nils Droste
  • Hyeonju Ryu
  • Giovanni Ávila-Flores
  • Solen Le Clec’h
  • Marcia C. Muñoz
  • Lovisa Nilsson
  • Sakshi Rana
  • Priyanka Sarkar
  • Katharina J. Sevecke
  • Zuzana V. Harmáčková
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecosystems and People
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)269-287
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


People depend on functioning ecosystems, which provide benefits that support human existence and wellbeing. The relationship between people and nature has been experienced and conceptualized in multiple ways. Recently, ecosystem services (ES) concepts have permeated science, government policies, multi-national environmental agreements, and science–policy interfaces. In 2017, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) introduced a new and closely related concept–Nature’s Contributions to People (NCP). The introduction of NCP has sparked some lively discussion and confusion about the distinguishing characteristics between ES and NCP. In order to clarify their conceptual relation, we identify eleven specific claims about novel elements from the latest NCP literature and analyze how far ES research has already contributed to these corresponding conceptual claims in the existing ES literature. We find a mixed-picture, where on six specific conceptual claims (culture, social sciences and humanities, indigenous and local knowledge, negative contributions of nature, generalizing perspective, non-instrumental values and valuation) NCP does not differ greatly from past ES research, but we also find five conceptual claims (diverse worldviews, context-specific perspective, relational values, fuzzy and fluid reporting categories and groups, inclusive language and framing) where NCP provides novel conceptualizations of people and nature relations.

Bibliographic note

Funding Information: AK was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), [PGSD2 - 534299 - 2019]. JA was funded by a NERC doctoral training partnership grant (NE/L002558/1). We thank Shankar Adhikari, Lisa Mühlgassner, Graham Raby, and Peter Soroye for their review and helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. We also thank participants at IPBES-6 for constructive discussions around NCP and the IPBES conceptual framework, particularly Sandra Díaz. We also thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments on previous versions of this manuscript greatly improved this article. Publisher Copyright: © 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.