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Challenges in ecosystem services governance: Multi-levels, multi-actors, multi-rationalities

Loft, Lasse, Mann, Carsten, Hansjürgens, Bernd
Ecosystem services 2015 v.16 pp. 150-157
biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, ethics, governance, issues and policy, politics, private sector, property rights, society
The emergence of the concept of ecosystem services has resulted in a paradigm shift in the ethical and political foundations of biodiversity conservation, from conserving nature due to its intrinsic value to an emphasis on anthropocentric use values. This paradigm shift has been accompanied by changes in the governance of natural resources over the past two decades. A recent trend in governance is the increased inclusion of multiple actors. A shift is taking place in which cooperation with other governmental levels, civil society, and private sector actors are being favoured over more traditional, state-centred governance. However, this “new governance” faces various challenges due to the specificities of ecosystem services and biodiversity. For one, ecosystem service beneficiaries and providers are dispersed vertically at multiple governance levels and horizontally across sectors. Furthermore, there is a lack of coordinated participation among the various actors, value judgments lack transparency, property rights are often poorly defined, and there are gaps in relevant scientific knowledge. Building on a literature review and the outcome of three international workshops, this introductory paper to the special issue on Governance of Ecosystem Services aims to identify and frame the key challenges within ecosystem services governance. This article sets the stage thematically for the collection of empirical contributions that shed further light on the matter and which discuss and contribute to the science and policy discourses on critical issues and challenges for ecosystem service governance, including the science-policy interface.