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Embedding ecosystem services ideas into policy processes: an institutional analysis

Duncan J. Russel, Department of Politics, University of Exeter, UK
John Turnpenny, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies, University of East Anglia, UK


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What helps or limits the use of ecosystem services ideas in practice? In this paper we develop and test a new institutionalist-based analytical scheme to explore how ecosystem services as a “new” policy idea might interact with established policy regimes, processes, and norms. The scheme is based on three different decision-making levels: micro, meso, and macro. To test the plausibility of the scheme, it is applied to the case of the UK where a specific ecosystem services framework (ESF) was prioritized as a new way of doing environmental policy after 2011. Drawing on findings from 32 elite interviews, the paper shows how dynamics at all three levels intersect with differing institutional explanations. It helps explain important factors for embedding, or restricting embedding, of the ESF in policy making. The scheme provides a useful way to link analysis of the “lived experience” of policy actors implementing the ESF with the institutional landscape they occupy, and allows for a nuanced and integrated analysis of the potential barriers faced by ecosystem services ideas generally.

Key words

ecosystem services framework; embedding; environmental policy making; institutionalism

Copyright © 2020 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