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Ecosystem services between integration and economics imperialism

Henrik Thorén, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies; Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, Helsinki University
Sanna Stĺlhammar, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies


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Here, we explore the interdisciplinary merits of the ecosystem services concept by recruiting the notion of economics imperialism. We identify four different ways in which interdisciplinary concepts can fail as interdisciplinary concepts, three of which are associated with imperialism. First, interdisciplinary concepts can fail to be integrative, typically by being overtly flexible or vague. The remaining three ways, which typically mark imperialist infringements, are: failure to achieve ontological unification, failure to maintain or accommodate a plurality of accounts when it is suitable, and the obfuscation of social or ethical values. We analyze some of the critiques that have been raised with respect to the ecosystem services concept as a case of economics imperialism. We conclude by discussing the scope and limits of the concept more broadly and what those mean for an interdisciplinary ecosystem services science going forward.

Key words

ecosystem services; integration; interdisciplinarity; scientific imperialism

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087