The inherently systemic concept of ecosystem services recognises multiple, qualitatively differing societal benefits, yet most services remain overlooked by contemporary markets and policy drivers contributing to ecosystem degradation. Societal transition from reductive, reactive decision-making about ecosystem management and policy to one founded on a systemic basis is limited by the lag effect of legacy world views and fragmented formal and informal policies. Transformation to systemically based societal decision-making norms may be accelerated by recognising that desired services should not dominate decision-making, instead constituting ‘anchor services’ around which outcomes for linked ecosystem services can be optimised with involvement of their beneficiaries. Deliberative processes can generate innovations in ecosystem use and management, including identification of ‘systemic solutions’ that deliberately optimise outcomes across a spectrum of linked ecosystem services. This service-optimising approach is more equitable through addressing outcomes for diverse service beneficiaries, more economically efficient by recognising and balancing linked benefits and disbenefits, and more resilient by refocusing on service-producing ecosystem processes. New policies and tools may be required, but application of the ecosystem services framework to evaluate outcomes in existing tools enables rapid, incremental progress. Systemic thinking about ecosystem dependencies and impacts is relevant to all policy areas and sectors of society.
Everard, M. (2017). Optimising ecosystem services to deliver multiple benefits