Outcomes of this stage
- Define the decision context
- Identify key stakeholders
- Structure the problem
The purposes of ecosystem service assessment
Ecosystem service assessment can be carried out for several reasons: It can raise awareness of the importance of ecosystem services for human well-being (see examples); It can help setting policy or management targets and priorities e.g. in land and water use; it can facilitate ecosystem service accounting, or it can look forward in describing alternative futures. For each assessment aim, there are different methods that are fit for purpose.
Ecosystem services are services only to an extent that people actually benefit from them. Therefore, it is important to engage the beneficiaries as well as stakeholders that are negatively affected by the loss of services early on in the assessment process. Stakeholder involvement is important also for increasing the credibility, relevance and legitimacy of the assessment results and for making use of local, place-placed knowledge (transdisciplinarity).
A crucial step in the assessment process is framing of the question: What are the key demographic, economic, legal, social and technological drivers of change underlying the decision making process, what are the management or policy goals and who has set them? Interactive problem formulation tools can assist in framing the problem in broad terms, covering the aims and concerns of different societal actors with an interest in ecosystem services, or the loss of them. There are also participatory problem structuring methods that can assist in identifying the biophysical and socio-cultural dimensions that are relevant for each decision-making situation.