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Using ecosystem services in decision-making to support sustainable development: Critiques, model development, a case study, and perspectives

Zagonari, Fabio
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.548-549 pp. 25-32
case studies, decision making, ecosystem services, experts, models, stakeholders, sustainable development, uncertainty, Italy
In this paper, I propose a general, consistent, and operational approach that accounts for ecosystem services in a decision-making context: I link ecosystem services to sustainable development criteria; adopt multi-criteria analysis to measure ecosystem services, with weights provided by stakeholders used to account for equity issues; apply both temporal and spatial discount rates; and adopt a technique to order performance of the possible solutions based on their similarity to an ideal solution (TOPSIS) to account for uncertainty about the parameters and functions. Applying this approach in a case study of an offshore research platform in Italy (CNR Acqua Alta) revealed that decisions depend non-linearly on the degree of loss aversion, to a smaller extent on a global focus (as opposed to a local focus), and to the smallest extent on social concerns (as opposed to economic or environmental concerns). Application of the general model to the case study leads to the conclusion that the ecosystem services framework is likely to be less useful in supporting decisions than in identifying the crucial features on which decisions depend, unless experts from different disciplines are involved, stakeholders are represented, and experts and stakeholders achieve mutual understanding.