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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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   2013| October-December  | Volume 11 | Issue 4  
    Online since January 23, 2014

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Ecosystem Services: Origins, Contributions, Pitfalls, and Alternatives
Sharachchandra Lele, Oliver Springate-Baginski, Roan Lakerveld, Debal Deb, Prasad Dash
October-December 2013, 11(4):343-358
The concept of ecosystem services (ES) has taken the environmental science and policy literature by storm, and has become almost the approach to thinking about and assessing the nature-society relationship. In this review, we ask whether and in what way the ES concept is a useful way of organising research on the nature-society relationship. We trace the evolution of the different versions of the concept and identify key points of convergence and divergence. The essence of the concept nevertheless is that the contribution of biotic nature to human well-being is unrecognised and undervalued, which results in destruction of ecosystems. We discuss why this formulation has attracted ecologists and summarise the resultant contributions to research, particularly to the understanding of indirect or regulating services. We then outline three sets of weaknesses in the ES framework: confusion over ecosystem functions and biodiversity, omission of dis-services, trade-offs and abiotic nature, and the use of an economic valuation framework to measure and aggregate human well-being. Underlying these weaknesses is a narrow problem frame that is unidimensional in its environmental concern and techno-economic in its explanation of environmental degradation. We argue that an alternative framing that embraces broader concerns and incorporates multiple explanations would be more useful, and outline how this approach to understanding the nature-society relationship may be implemented.
  19,390 4,238 19
Beyond Money Metrics: Alternative Approaches to Conceptualising and Assessing Ecosystem Services
Seema Purushothaman, Bejoy K Thomas, Rosa Abraham, Uppeandra Dhar
October-December 2013, 11(4):321-325
The concept and valuation of ecosystem services have emerged as growing and dynamic areas of research over the past few years. The adoption of these ideas and methods into mainstream policy discussions and practice has occurred at a rapid pace. Conventionally, the valuation of ecosystem services has been synonymous with estimating the economic (monetary) value of these services. However, monetisation has limitations that need to be acknowledged before it is adopted in policies. In addition, the socio-political and institutional dimensions of ecosystem services are largely overlooked in the debate. Against this backdrop, the Indian Society for Ecological Economics (INSEE) has put together this special section to critically review the current thinking and practices surrounding ecosystem services and to present emerging alternative approaches.
  4,647 11,000 1
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Recent Instances for Debate
Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos, Joan Martínez-Alier
October-December 2013, 11(4):326-342
After 1992 many conservation biologists thought that the use of economic instruments would be more effective to halt biodiversity loss than policies based on setting apart some natural spaces outside the market. At the same time there was a new elaboration of the concept of ecosystem services and, since 1997, there have been attempts at costing in money terms the loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity, including the high profile TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) project (2008-2011). Our discussion rests on instances showing the analytical implications of three main socio-economic meanings of biodiversity loss: 1) the loss of natural capital; 2) the loss of ecosystem functions; and 3) the loss of cultural values and human rights to livelihood. We review several approaches to include economic considerations in biodiversity conservation. We show cases where monetary valuation is relevant and other cases where it is controversial and even counterproductive, as it undermines the objectives of conservation.
  8,598 3,223 6
Understanding the Social and Ecological Outcomes of PES Projects: A Review and an Analysis
Bhim Adhikari, Arun Agrawal
October-December 2013, 11(4):359-374
Market-based approaches to environmental management, such as payments for ecosystem services (PES), have attracted unprecedented attention during the past decade. In this article, we review 26 case studies on PES from 11 countries in Asia and Latin America to help improve the understanding of the factors affecting PES schemes at the local level. We assess outcomes of the PES interventions in relation to four outcomes: equity, participation, livelihood, and environmental sustainability. Although we consider economic efficiency of these schemes to be crucial for informing policy debates, assessing it was not under the scope of this review. Our analysis shows the importance of property rights and tenure security, transaction costs, household and community characteristics, effective communication about the intervention, and the availability of PES-related information with regard to the sustainability of ecosystem service markets. The review suggests that PES schemes could target improvements in more than one outcome dimension. Focusing on the above five areas can lead to the continued provision of ecosystem services and improvements of the well-being of local inhabitants.
  6,094 1,774 6
Tiger, Lion, and Human Life in the Heart of Wilderness: Impacts of Institutional Tourism on Development and Conservation in East Africa and India
Nilanjan Ghosh, Emil Uddhammar
October-December 2013, 11(4):375-390
This article tests the hypothesis on whether tourism is an important institutional factor in reconciling the conflicting goals of conservation and development. The study entails data from field surveys across protected areas including the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania, and the Corbett National Park in northern India. With human development defined in terms of 'stages of progress' (SOP) delineated by the respondents themselves, the study finds indicative evidences of the validity of the posed hypothesis in the two nations, in varying proportions. Factors not related to tourism, like incomes from livestock, have affected development in Tanzania, though not in India.
  5,319 779 -
Elephant-induced Displacement and the Power of Choice: Moral Narratives about Resettlement in Mozambique's Limpopo National Park
Rebecca Witter
October-December 2013, 11(4):406-419
Despite the centrality of moral assumptions to defining environmental crises and solutions, research in discursive political ecology has paid inadequate attention to conservation's moral dimensions. Conservation-related resettlement is a problem for people working and living in protected areas across the globe, around which diverse ideas, meanings, and narratives emerge and circulate. Drawing from participant observation and interview data, I assess the interactions between two 'moral narratives' that emerged in Mozambique's Limpopo National Park (LNP) where international wildlife translocations were ongoing and resettlement is underway. LNP residents employed a 'moral narrative of protection' to achieve their objective of living free from conflict with wildlife. Conservation managers employed a 'moral narrative of choice' to advance their goal of achieving a voluntary resettlement programme. These divergent narratives reflect these actors' morally defined standards and expectations regarding people's responsibilities towards the environment, other species, and/or other people. Taken together they reveal important contradictions to the state's claim that the resettlement programme is voluntary. Instead, they indicate that resettlement processes are taking place in a displacement context wrought by conflict with wildlife, elephants in particular. My findings advance understandings of the moral dimensions of conservation discourse and the complex relationship between displacement and volition.
  5,159 667 3
Governance in Transboundary Conservation: How Institutional Structure and Path Dependence Matter
Michael Schoon
October-December 2013, 11(4):420-428
Transboundary protected areas (TBPAs) have gained currency over the past decade because of their perceived (and highly disputed) effectiveness at achieving a wide array of goals ranging from improved biodiversity conservation to regional economic development to the promotion of peace between countries. However, few studies have analysed how institutional structures influence cross-border coordination across a range of issues in a transboundary park. This study uses two TBPAs in southern Africa-the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park-to look at issues of international governance in transboundary conservation. The bottom-up institutional development in the Kgalagadi has allowed ground-level officials to learn how to work together to adapt and respond to the day-to-day challenges they confront. By contrast, local-level collaboration in the Great Limpopo has emerged slowly due to the top-down imposition of the park on local-level communities and officials. The central premise is that the institutional beginnings to the two TBPAs result in differing capacities for effective collaboration. Initial institutional design also creates path dependencies, which may be difficult to overcome later. These findings can help practitioners in designing more robust, long-enduring institutions to better achieve their goals in future transboundary conservation projects.
  4,926 777 5
Embracing Ecological Learning and Social Learning: UNESCO Biosphere Reserves as Exemplars of Changing Conservation Practices
Maureen G Reed, Merle MM Massie
October-December 2013, 11(4):391-405
Biosphere reserves were first created in 1976 to help scientists, managers, and communities better understand how to conserve biodiversity and improve human-environment interactions. Since then, biosphere reserves have evolved from a primary focus on 'ecological learning' to a broader orientation that includes 'social learning'. The purpose of this paper is to trace how this shift became intertwined with changing expectations about the purpose and philosophy, criteria for site selection, and assessment of effectiveness of biosphere reserves as exemplars of conservation and sustainable development. Drawing on academic reports, policy and other archived documents from the international and Canadian programs, and interviews of key participants, this paper examines how international priorities changed and became expressed on the ground in designation processes and research practices of Canadian biosphere reserves. Our research indicates that social dimensions of learning have been added to earlier ecological objectives. This addition has had a dual impact. While laudably broadening perspectives on research, learning, and learners to include social scientists and local people more effectively, a heightened emphasis on social dimensions has increased the complexity of anticipated outcomes tied to governance and social goals. Biosphere reserves must now establish research and management approaches that encompass both ecological and social dimensions of learning reflecting collaborative and interdisciplinary research and practice that include local perspectives and assessment goals. These changes may require improved clarity for determining where future biosphere reserves should be created and how they should be managed.
  4,365 666 2