Quantifying stakeholder understanding of an ecosystem service trade-off

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Feb 15;651(Pt 2):2524-2534. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.10.090. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


Sustainable management of global natural resources is challenged by social and environmental drivers, adding pressure to ecosystem service provision in many regions of the world where there are competing demands on environmental resources. Understanding trade-offs between ecosystem services and how they are valued by different stakeholder groups is therefore critical to maximise benefits and avoid conflict between competing uses. In this study we developed a novel participatory trade-off experiment to elicit the perception of 43 participants, from across four key stakeholder groups, working in land and water management (Environmental Regulators, Farming Advisors, Water Industry Staff and Catchment Scientists). Using the Production Possibility Frontier (PPF) concept, we quantified stakeholder assessment of both the shape and the uncertainty around the PPF in a trade-off between agricultural intensity and the ecological health of freshwater systems. The majority of stakeholder groups selected threshold and logistic decay trade-off curves to describe the relationship of the trade-off, and estimated the uncertainty around the curves to be intermediate or large. The views of the four stakeholder groups differed significantly regarding how they estimated stakeholder trade-off prioritisation; the largest difference in perspectives was identified between Environmental Regulators and Farm Advisors. The methodology considered the cultural, socio-economic and institutional specificities of an ecosystem service interaction and identified potential sources of conflict but also possible solutions for win-win opportunities to explore and share understanding between stakeholders. Valuing stakeholder knowledge as a form of expert data and integrating this into participatory decision-making processes for land and water management thus contributes considerable value beyond traditional approaches to ecosystem service assessments.

Keywords: Integrated catchment management; Land and water management; Land-use conflict; Participatory techniques; Production possibility frontier; Trade-off analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Decision Making*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fresh Water
  • Scotland
  • Stakeholder Participation*