Looking to the future of ecosystem services: A review of available approaches

Ana C. Attlee, Mark S. Reed*, Claudia E. Carter, Alister J. Scott, Steven Vella, Michael Hardman, Rosmarie K. Neumann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Benefits provided by the natural environment that support future human wellbeing are increasingly being compromised by human activities. Consequently, the effects of socio-economic and environmental drivers on the future provision of these 'ecosystem services' are highly uncertain. It is therefore increasingly important that decision-makers in policy and practice assess the range of futures that they may face, in order to adapt effectively to maintain the essential functions that ecosystems perform to support human wellbeing. This narrative review therefore evaluates futures research tools for the roles they may play in developing and implementing ecosystem services policy and practice. It unpacks their scope, purpose and efficacy, and evaluates how such futures tools have been used to work with ecosystem services. It provides a typology of futures tools based on the epistemological beliefs that underpin them and the extent to which they construct futures as a directed or emergent process. It considers futures tools for assessing ecosystem services ranging from the qualitative to quantitative. The paper concludes that futures tools for assessing and planning ecosystem service futures must be flexible, heterogeneous, scalable, transparent, valid, and useable by stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024
Number of pages13
JournalCAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


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