How on Earth? : Operationalizing the ecosystem service concept for sustainability

Abstract: Production landscapes are at the center of many of the sustainability challenges that we face. The ecosystem service concept has risen in prominence over the last decades as a tool to support sustainable landscape management. Stewardship has been suggested as an approach that individuals and groups of actors can practice when striving for sustainability in complex situations. In this thesis, I explore how the ecosystem service concept can be used as a tool to support the stewardship practices of various local actors who are engaging in sustainable landscape management. The core of this thesis is a participatory resilience assessment conducted together with a diverse group of actors, all involved in different forms of landscape management in the Helgeå catchment in Southern Sweden. In Paper I, I describe the participatory ecosystem service bundles analysis that was part of the process. In Paper II, I describe the process as a whole and show how participating supported learning and articulation of complexity thinking. In Paper III, I compare this process with three other knowledge co-production processes from the Helgeå catchment, and trace how different theoretical approaches led to both similar and diverging ecosystem service knowledge outputs. Finally, in Paper IV, I use a photo elicitation exercise to articulate different narratives of how sense of home motivates private, non-industrial forest owners in the Helgeå catchment to engage in stewardship practice.Together, these four papers show that the ecosystem service concept can support sustainability by facilitating knowledge co-production processes about complex challenges in landscape management. In such settings, it can function as a pedagogical tool and bridging concept. For participating civil servants, ecosystem service knowledge and terminology were also used strategically when communicating with actors in their own organizations, effectively influencing their situated agency to practice stewardship. Finally, the ecosystem service concept has the potential to be useful in the dialogue between private land owners and other actors. However, some pathways to stewardship, such as those rooted in a sense for history and community, would be better represented by other, more relational human-nature conceptualizations. This means that while the operationalization of the ecosystem service concept can contribute to stewardship practices in pursuit of sustainability, there are also important limitations that need to be taken into account in each context of use.