Broadening the scope of ecosystem services research: Disaggregation as a powerful concept for sustainable natural resource management

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Most assessments of ecosystem services to date are aggregate assessments. Despite their usefulness as a first approximation of how nature is valuable to people, they can obscure important inter- and intragenerational equity issues, which are vital in a policy context, particularly with regard to sustainability. In this conceptual paper, we aim to strengthen the position of disaggregation in ecosystem services research and policy making. Based on existing literature, we highlight four equity issues that remain hidden in aggregate ecosystem service assessments. We then suggest and discuss four disaggregation dimensions (beneficiary groups, value types, space, and time) that can address these issues and are directly useful for assessing the equity implications of ecosystem service appropriation. Building on our conceptual and methodological considerations, we present a generally applicable, structured approach to assessing ecosystem services in a disaggregated way. Finally, we look more closely at the role of disaggregated analyses in policy making, where they provide crucial information necessary to understand the implications of changing natural resource management and ecosystem services appropriation, and argue that our multi-dimensional approach to disaggregation may result in alternative understandings of ecosystem services as complex social-ecological phenomena.

ZeitschriftEcosystem Services
Anzahl der Seiten11
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.02.2022

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
We thank Tobias Plieninger and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this work, and Feyera Senbeta for inputs to general discussions on the disaggregation of ecosystem services in southwestern Ethiopia. This work was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the project “Towards a Sustainable Bioeconomy: A Scenario Analysis for the Jimma Coffee Landscape in Ethiopia” (project number 63300083). The BMBF provided funding and had no other involvement in this work.

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