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Disentangling trade-offs and synergies around ecosystem services with the influence network framework: illustration from a consultative process over the French Alps

Emilie Crouzat, Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, France
Berta Martín-López, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Faculty of Sustainability, Institute of Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Germany
Francis Turkelboom, Research Group Nature and Society, Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Belgium
Sandra Lavorel, Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, France


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An important aspect of sustainability is to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functioning while improving human well-being. For this, the ecosystem service (ES) approach has the potential to bridge the still existing gap between ecological management and social development, especially by focusing on trade-offs and synergies between ES and between their beneficiaries. Several frameworks have been proposed to account for trade-offs and synergies between ES, and between ES and other components of social-ecological systems. However, to date, insufficient explicit attention has been paid to the three facets encompassed in the ES concept, namely potential supply, demand, and use, leading to incomplete descriptions of ES interactions. We expand on previous frameworks by proposing a new influence network framework (INF) based on an explicit consideration of influence relationships between these three ES facets, biodiversity, and external driving variables. We tested its ability to provide a comprehensive view of complex social-ecological interactions around ES through a consultative process focused on environmental management in the French Alps. We synthetized the interactions mentioned during this consultative process and grouped variables according to their overall propensity to influence or be influenced by the system. The resulting directed sequence of influences distinguished between: (1) mostly influential variables (dynamic social variables and ecological state variables), (2) target variables (provisioning and cultural services), and (3) mostly impacted variables (regulating services and biodiversity parameters). We discussed possible reasons for the discrepancies between actual and perceived influences and proposed options to overcome them. We demonstrated that the INF holds the potential to deliver collective assessments of ES relations by: (1) including ecological as well as social aspects, (2) providing opportunities for colearning processes between stakeholder groups, and (3) supporting communication about complex social-ecological systems and consequences for environmental management.

Key words

cross-sectoral stakeholder consultation; ecosystem service potential supply, demand, and use; French Alps; influence networks; trade-offs and synergies

Copyright © 2016 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