An environmental justice perspective on ecosystem services

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Mainstreaming of ecosystem service approaches has been proposed as one path toward sustainable development. Meanwhile, critics of ecosystem services question if the approach can account for the multiple values of ecosystems to diverse groups of people, or for aspects of inter- and intra-generational justice. In particular, an ecosystem service approach often overlooks power dimensions and capabilities that are core to environmental justice. This article addresses the need for greater guidance on incorporating justice into ecosystem services research and practice. We point to the importance of deep engagement with stakeholders and rights holders to disentangle contextual factors that moderate justice outcomes on ecosystem service attribution and appropriation in socio-political interventions. Such a holistic perspective enables the integration of values and knowledge plurality for enhancing justice in ecosystem services research. This broadened perspective paves a way for transformative ecosystem service assessments, management, and research, which can help inform and design governance structures that nourish human agency to sustainably identify, manage, and enjoy ecosystem services for human wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)477-488
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2023

Bibliographical note

We are grateful for the Duke-Nicholas Institute as well as the formation of the ESP partnership on ES and EJ, which sparked our discussions around bridging the gap between research and practice and how to link ES with equity considerations. JL was funded through a Junior Professorship for Research into the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources by the Robert-Bosch Foundation. FB was funded by the National Agency for Research and Development (ANID) through the scholarship program Becas Chile-Doctorado Acuerdo Bilateral DAAD convocatoria 2017 No 62170002 and by ANID Chile through FONDECYT Grant No 1190207. FB acknowledges the support of iDiv funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG-FZT 118, 202548816).
Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s).