Richard Smithers (Ricardo Energy & Environment), 14 Jun. 2017:

Challenges for assessment and practical application of cultural ecosystem services in decision making

Despite rapid advances in development of the ecosystem services (ES) concept, challenges remain for its use in decision making. Cultural ES (CES) have proven particularly difficult to pin down and resultant “shades of grey” impede their consideration by decision-makers. A literature review of CES will be presented, which was undertaken to highlight the shades of grey. The findings will be illustrated by reference to the Swedish mountain landscape, and potential implications for practical decision making will be addressed. The concept of CES is complex and difficult to operationalize. The root of confusion appears to be a lack of rigour in identifying CES, hindering identification of proper methods for determining: the ecosystem elements that underpin CES; the beneficiaries of CES and how they value benefits delivered; and how CES may vary in space and time. The presentation will conclude by relating a framework of questions to the ES cascade model. The framework is intended to help researchers and decision-makers to reflect when considering CES. Answers to the questions should enable decision-makers to prioritise policy development or implementation in relation to the differing needs of potentially competing beneficiaries and what needs to be done or not done to the ecosystem, where, when and by whom.