Incorporating Sociocultural Phenomena into Ecosystem-Service Valuation: The Importance of Critical Pluralism

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Abstract

Ecosystem-services scholarship has largely focused on monetary valuation and the material contributions of ecosystems to human well-being. Increasingly, research is calling for a deeper understanding of how less tangible, nonmaterial values shape management and stakeholder decisions. We propose a framework that characterizes a suite of sociocultural phenomena rooted in key social science disciplines that are currently underrepresented in the ecosystem-services literature. The results from three example studies are presented to demonstrate how the tenets of this conceptual model can be applied in practice. We consider the findings from these studies in light of three priorities for future research: (1) complexities in individual and social functioning, (2) the salience and specificity of the perceived benefits of nature, and (3) distinctions among value concepts. We also pose a series of questions to stimulate reflection on how ecosystem-services research can adopt more pluralistic viewpoints that accommodate different forms of knowledge and its acquisition.

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