Social-ecological dynamics of ecosystem service bundles

Abstract: The environments in which we live are complex, adapting and evolving in non-linear ways. The ecosystem services produced in landscapes supply resources, support livelihoods and are foundational to human wellbeing. The assessment of individual ecosystem services has been the focus of much work but evaluating the dynamic nature of multiple ecosystem services has been limited. Sustainably managing landscapes requires an understanding of how different social and ecological factors shape the distribution of ecosystem services and how those services are related to one another. The ecosystem service bundles concept refers to reoccurring sets of ecosystem services and is useful for focusing on interactions among ecosystem services. It is also critical that methods for assessing ecosystem services are feasible and accessible to landscape managers. The prolific public data in Sweden is an interesting case to explore the ability of publicly available data to express ecosystem services at an applicable scale.Using publicly available data at the municipal scale, the thesis first identifies bundles of ecosystem services in the Norrström drainage basin in Sweden. Five types of bundles were found spatially aggregated across the basin. Further analysis explored the evenness of the distribution of the ecosystem services across the region. These human dominated landscapes were found to be highly multifunctional with regards to the diversity and evenness of the ecosystem services, as well as in comparison to other places.Second, four theory-based models were developed to explore the social, ecological and geographic drivers of the ecosystem services and ecosystem service bundles found in the Norrström drainage basin. The models were created by distilling the core assumptions of four theories of human-nature interactions into social, ecological and geographic driver variables to test their ability to explain the distribution of the ecosystem services and ecosystem service bundles. No one model was best at predicting the distribution of all the ecosystem services. Bundles of ecosystem services were not predicted as well as the individual ecosystem services. Nevertheless, a clear picture of the variation of ecosystem services in the region could be seen even with this limited information.Third, ecosystem service bundles were assessed using publicly available data at the municipal scale for all of Sweden across four time periods. Little change in the distribution of the ecosystem services bundles was detected across the time periods which start in 2000. The relationship between the ecosystem services bundles and a range of social, ecological and geographic variables was assessed. The fixed geographic variable latitude along with forest and arable area had the largest impact on the distribution pattern of the ecosystem service bundles.Finally, the thesis examines the different conceptualizations of the concept of ecosystem service bundles. The benefits to using an ecosystem service bundles approach are highlighted, including how bundles simplify analysis, simplify management, help advance social-ecological theory, provide guidance with missing information, and bridge separated research fields and stakeholder groups. Ways to improve research on ecosystem service bundles are presented through discussions of social-ecological indicators, scale, and internal ecosystem service relationships and drivers. A framework for finding points of compatibility between bundle studies and navigating comparisons is provided, because there is so much to learn from comparing ecosystem service bundle research.

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