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Ecosystem services can provide a wide range of benefits for human well-being, including provisioning, regulating and cultural services and benefitting both private and public interests in different sectors of society. Biophysical, economic and social factors all make it unlikely that multiple needs will be met simultaneously without deliberate efforts, yet while there is still much interest in developing win-win outcomes there is little understanding of what is required for them to be achieved. We analysed outcomes in a wide range of case studies where ecosystem services had been used for human well-being. Using systematic mapping of the literature from 2000 to 2013, we identified 1324 potentially relevant reports, 92 of which were selected for the review, creating a database of 231 actual or potential recorded trade-offs and synergies. The analysis of these case studies highlighted significant gaps in the literature, including: a limited geographic distribution of case studies, a focus on provisioning as opposed to non-provisioning services and a lack of studies exploring the link between ecosystem service trade-offs or synergies and the ultimate impact on human well-being. Trade-offs are recorded almost three times as often as synergies and the analysis indicates that there are three significant indicators that a trade-off will occur: at least one of the stakeholders having a private interest in the natural resources available, the involvement of provisioning ecosystem services and at least one of the stakeholders acting at the local scale. There is not, however, a generalisable context for a win-win, indicating that these trade-off indicators, although highlighting where a trade-off may occur do not indicate that it is inevitable. Taking account of why trade-offs occur (e.g. from failures in management or a lack of accounting for all stakeholders) is more likely to create win-win situations than planning for a win-win from the outset. Consequently, taking a trade-offs as opposed to a win-win approach, by having an awareness of and accounting for factors that predict a trade-off (private interest, provisioning versus other ES, local stakeholder) and the reasons why trade-offs are often the outcome, it may be possible to create the synergies we seek to achieve.
Designed by a partnership of UN agencies, international scientific organizations, and development agencies, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is the most extensive study ever of the linkages between the world’s ecosystems and human well-being. The goal of the MA is to establish the scientific basis for actions needed to enhance the contribution of ecosystems to human well-being without undermining their long-term productivity. With contributions by more than 500 scientists from 70 countries, the MA has proven to be one of the most important conservation initiatives ever undertaken, and the ecosystem services paradigm on which it is based provides the standard for practice. This manual supplies the specific tools that practitioners of the paradigm need in order to extend their work into the future.The manual is a stand-alone “how to” guide to conducting assessments of the impacts on humans of ecosystem changes. In addition, assessment practitioners who are looking for guidance on particular aspects of the assessment process will find individual chapters of this manual to be useful in advancing their understanding of best practices in ecosystem assessment. The manual builds on the experiences and lessons learned from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment global and sub-global assessment initiatives, with chapters written by well-known participants in those initiatives. It also includes insights and experiences gained from a wider range of ecosystem service-focused assessment activities since the completion of the MA in 2005.