Creating win-wins from trade-offs? Ecosystem services for human well-being: a meta-analysis of ecosystem service trade-offs and synergies in the real world

Creating win-wins from trade-offs? Ecosystem services for human well-being: a meta-analysis of ecosystem service trade-offs and synergies in the real world

Ecosystem services can provide a wide range of benefits for human well-being, including provisioning, regulating and cultural services and benefitting both private and public interests in different sectors of society. Biophysical, economic and social factors all make it unlikely that multiple needs will be met simultaneously without deliberate efforts, yet while there is still much interest in developing win-win outcomes there is little understanding of what is required for them to be achieved. The authors of this paper, published in Global Environmental Change, examined a range of case studies where ecosystem services had been used for human well-being. They found that trade-offs are recorded almost three times as often as synergies and the analysis indicates that there are three significant indicators that a trade-off will occur: at least one of the stakeholders having a private interest in the natural resources available, the involvement of provisioning ecosystem services and at least one of the stakeholders acting at the local scale. There is not, however, a generalisable context for a win-win, indicating that these trade-off indicators, although highlighting where a trade-off may occur, do not indicate that it is inevitable. Taking account of why trade-offs occur is more likely to create win-win situations than planning for a win-win from the outset. Consequently, taking a trade-offs as opposed to a win-win approach, by having an awareness of and accounting for factors that predict a trade-off and the reasons why trade-offs are often the outcome, it may be possible to create the synergies we seek to achieve. 

Howe, C., Suich, H., Vira, B., & Mace, G. M. (2014). Creating win-wins from trade-offs? Ecosystem services for human well-being: A meta-analysis of ecosystem service trade-offs and synergies in the real world. Global Environmental Change, 28, 263–275. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.GLOENVCHA.2014.07.005

This paper is an output of the CCI Collaborative Fund project Beyond win-win: interrogating ecosystem services dynamics

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Beyond win-win: interrogating ecosystem services dynamics

While the ecosystem services framework offers the potential for developing approaches that simultaneously provide ecological stability and livelihood security, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world, there are often tradeoffs associated with the pursuit of multiple objectives, by multiple stakeholders, across multiple temporal and spatial scales. Choices are ubiquitous in natural resource management…