Ecosystem service values and societal settings for coral reef governance

Hicks, Christina Chemtai (2013) Ecosystem service values and societal settings for coral reef governance. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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People receive a range of benefits from nature, which are often referred to as ecosystem services – a term popularized by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA 2005). Those engaging with this new way of thinking about ecosystems, seek practical solutions to environmental decline, and specifically, solutions that link people with nature. Many core ecosystem service concepts emerged predominantly from the ecological sciences, but this new branch of literature also drew on environmental economics (particularly that branch which deals with non‐market valuation methods) to demonstrate the importance of the benefits provided by nature.

Ecosystem service scientists thus explicitly focus on the relationship between people and nature, the aim being to influence the way people behave. However, ecosystem service science is yet to fully engage with many of the social sciences that examine values and behavior. For example, socio‐cultural and motivational components of value are lacking from ecosystem service assessments. Further, although it is evident that people benefit from nature in different ways and to different degrees, current approaches do not always recognize this social differentiation, or its influence on behavior. Thus, while the last decade has seen considerable growth in the adoption of ecosystem service concepts by research programs, development agencies, funding bodies, and national policies, there is no generally accepted framework for integrating ecosystems service values into decision making. In this thesis, I therefore set out to develop a better understanding of how people benefit from and value ecosystem services; and to determine how this knowledge could be integrated into the analysis and development of policy. To do so, I visited, and collected data from, 28 coral reef fishing communities in four countries across the western Indian Ocean (WIO): Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Seychelles, and drew on political science, social psychology, and welfare economics to address five objectives, specifically to:

1. establish what ecosystem services have been assigned monetary estimates of 'value' and to ascertain the implication of this work;

2. develop and apply a framework that allows one to evaluate the potential outcome of a set of rules, taking resource users' ecosystem service values and their social characteristics into consideration;

3. examine ecosystem service priorities and interactions at different levels of decision making;

4. integrate socio‐cultural and motivational components of value to determine why bundles and trade‐offs emerge;

5. establish how different people benefit from a supply of ecosystem services.

Objective one is addressed in chapter two, where I report on the results of a semiquantitative meta‐analysis of the coral reef valuation literature. Here I found a diversity of ecosystem services had been 'valued' (i.e. assessed in monetary terms). However, studies tended to focus on one or two services at a time, and different services tended to be 'valued' using fundamentally incomparable methods. Thus comparisons could not be made across study, or service. All of the valuation studies contained in the review measured the benefits flowing to specific beneficiaries and at a specific scale. However, this information was not always readily apparent. Furthermore, differences in the ability of beneficiaries to pay (i.e. comparing wealthier with less wealthy individuals) created apparent differences in ecosystem service values. In other words, many of the observed differences in 'value' were found to be an artifact of method. This analysis thus highlighted the need for ecosystem service assessments to: a) measure multiple ecosystem services; b) employ similar valuation methods; and c) acknowledge whose values are being counted.

As a result of this review, and in the remainder of my thesis I examined multiple ecosystem services, using methods applied consistently across all services, and clearly articulated whose values were being counted. To do this I collected qualitative and quantitative data about people's ecosystem service priorities, their underlying motivations, and their contextual characteristics via focus group and interviews with resource users, managers, and scientists.

To meet objective two, I developed an analytical framework, incorporating values, contextual characteristics, and behavior to determine the outcome of policy options. I applied this framework to a case study in the Seychelles in chapter three, which illustrated how different resource users prioritized fundamentally different ecosystem services and how these differences were associated with specific social characteristics. A key finding here, therefore, was that ecosystem service values and resource users' contextual characteristics together determine how people are likely to behave under alternate policy options.

I therefore used insights from chapter three's case‐study to guide my data collection activities and analysis for the remaining chapters of my thesis. In chapter four, I looked at ecosystem service priorities at different levels of decision making (objective 3). I found both similarities and differences in the priorities of different actors (fishers, managers, and scientists). Most interesting however, were the marked differences in the bundles and trade‐offs associated with different actors' ecosystem service priorities. Specifically, the interactions associated with fishers' ecosystem service priorities were almost entirely distinct from scientists. For example, fishers considered fishery and habitat values to tradeoff with one another, where scientists did not see an interaction. Managers however, overlapped with both fishers and scientists on a number of perceived bundles and tradeoffs, suggesting a potential role for managers in navigating trade‐offs and brokering agreement.

In chapter five I integrated concepts from social psychology on human values as motivations (objective 4), finding that people's motivational goals for valuing ecosystem services aligned with the most commonly used measures of value‐types from social psychology. This relationship implies ecosystem services are structurally related: specific services are close to one another, whereas others are in opposition. This lends insight into why bundles and trade‐offs in ecosystem service priorities emerge. The distribution in ecosystem services can therefore be understood from their underlying motivations. Critically, I found this same distribution in the independent assessments of ecosystem service priorities.

Finally objective 5 focused on the fact that the benefits which people gain and the values they assign to ecosystem services are likely to be dependent on their ability to benefit from a given supply of ecosystem services. In other words: people benefit from nature when they have access to it. Access manifests in many ways. For example, people may need legal access before they can benefit from a resource. In the same way people may need certain knowledge, or technology, or they may need to attain a certain status in society before they can benefit. As reported in chapter six, I found that access mechanisms were strongly related to how people perceive benefits from ecosystem services. Social and institutional access mechanisms, in particular, were found to explain most of the benefits people perceived.

Throughout my thesis, trade‐offs and bundles emerged as a critical component of people's ecosystem service priorities. Common trade‐offs emerged that align with the literature (e.g. supporting with provisioning services) suggesting trade‐offs may be absolute. Bundles however, were more variable. The distribution in people's ecosystems service priorities can be understood from their underlying motivations, and are associated with specific social and institutional characteristics. Furthermore, the ability of people to benefit, and therefore value a variety of ecosystem services is also associated with social and institutional characteristics that enable them to access resources. The mutability of bundles and the influence that social characteristics have, may provide tools that managers can employ in brokering decisions over the management of ecosystem services. My PhD has thus highlighted the importance of incorporating social theory into ecosystem service science and the potential for addressing bundles and trade‐offs in people's ecosystem service values.

Item ID: 29605
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: ecosystem services; ecoystem service values; valuing ecosystem services; environmental sociology; ecosystem service priorities
Additional Information:

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 2. Hicks, Christina C. (2011) How do we value our reefs? Risks and tradeoffs across scales in "biomass-based" economies. Coastal Management, 39 (4). pp. 358-376.

Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2013 01:41
FoR Codes: 14 ECONOMICS > 1499 Other Economics > 149902 Ecological Economics @ 33%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160403 Social and Cultural Geography @ 34%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 33%
SEO Codes: 91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9199 Other Economic Framework > 919902 Ecological Economics @ 34%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960606 Rights to Environmental and Natural Resources (excl. Water Allocation) @ 33%
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