Valuation of nature and nature’s contributions to people

In Sustainability Science
Volume (Issue): 17
Non Peer-reviewed Article
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Understanding nature's contributions to people (NCP) can improve people's ability to manage earth systems effectively, equitably, and sustainably (Chaplin-Kramer et al. 2019; Brauman et al., 2020). NCP can be perceived as a benefit or detriment depending on the cultural, temporal, or spatial context (Diaz et al. 2018). According to IPBES (2019), beneficial contributions from nature include food provision, water purification, flood control, and artistic inspiration. In contrast, detrimental contributions include disease transmission and predation that causes damage to people or their assets. Pascual et al. (2017) observed that previous studies that focus on the valuation of nature’s contributions to people's good quality of life are often not sufficiently inclusive and tend to neglect conflicting perspectives. To address this, the NCP concept and framing is being promoted in inclusive ways and encompasses multiple ways to understand how nature benefits people, for instance, via the concept of ecosystem services (ESs) and embracing diverse world views, including those of indigenous people and local communities. Therefore, more multidisciplinary scientific research is essential to deal with NCP. Increasing overexploitation of natural resources and unprecedented transformation of land, freshwater, and seascapes over the past century have paralleled technological advances and supported better living standards for many but have also led to changes in climate and the accelerating decline of biological diversity worldwide. This overexploitation negatively impacts many aspects of a good quality of life (Diaz et al. 2019). In particular, global climate change is also associated with irreversible changes in NCP (Runting et al. 2017; Arneth et al. 2020; Pörtner et al. 2021). Maintaining or enhancing nature's beneficial contributions to a good quality of life without compromising nature's ability to provide the sustainability of NCP is one of the most urgent contemporary challenges (Diaz et al. 2018, 2019) and underpins the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (Griggs et al. 2013). To achieve this, decision-makers must understand how human activities affect nature and its ability to provide NCP. Multiple academic disciplines increasingly provide NCP information at regional and local scales and among different social groups. It is a valuable input that can help policy to help catalyze changes in attitudes and behavior.