Using Participatory Scenario Planning to Identify Ecosystem Services in Changing Landscapes

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"There is a growing interest in assessing ecosystem services to improve ecosystem management in landscapes containing a mix of different ecosystems. While methodologies for assessing ecosystem services are constantly improving, only little attention has been given to the identification of which ecosystem services to assess. Service selection is mostly based on current state of the landscape although many landscapes are both inherently complex and rapidly changing. In this study we examine whether scenario development, a tool for dealing with uncertainties and complexities of the future, gives important insights into the selection of ecosystem services in changing landscapes. Using an agricultural landscape in South Africa we compared different sets of services selected for an assessment by four different groups: stakeholders making the scenarios, experts who have read the scenarios, experts who had not read the scenarios, and services derived from literature. We found significant differences among the services selected by different groups, especially between the literature services and the other groups. Cultural services were least common in literature and that list was also most dissimilar in terms of identity, ranking, and numbers of services compared to the other three groups. The services selected by experts and the scenario stakeholders were relatively similar indicating that knowledge of a study area gained through the scenario exercise is not very different from that of experts actively working in the area. Although our results show limited value in using scenario development for improved ecosystem service selection per se, the scenario development process triggers important discussions with local and regional stakeholders about key issues of today, helping to more correctly assess changes in the future."
agriculture, complexity, social-ecological systems, uncertainty, landscape change