Framing ecosystem services in the telecoupled Anthropocene

Journal or Book Title: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Volume/Issue: 14 (1)

Page Number(s): 27-36

Year Published: 2016


Ecosystem services (ES) and human societies are unevenly distributed across landscapes (MA 2005 ; Brauman et al . 2007 ; Liu 2013 ). Many ES (including food, fuel, and clean water) are produced locally, but their benefits extend regionally, nationally, and even globally; for instance, although carbon (C) sequestration and C storage in forests occur at local scales, their associated benefits are spread worldwide. In cities, for example, ES are relatively scarce, while human population density and demands for such services are high. In other words, the divergence between the supply of and demand for ES is increasing (Burkhard et al . 2012 ). Meeting the demand for distant ES requires either transporting those services from distant locations through processes such as transfer or trade, or travelling to locales that provide the desired services (eg ecotourism). Research on ES around the world has been progressing rapidly since the publication of the influential Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA 2005 ). For example, theoretical and methodological innovations have improved the assessment, mapping, and valuation of ES, and have enhanced understanding of the links between ES and human well- being (Naidoo and Ricketts 2006 ; Daily and Matson 2008 ; Nelson et al . 2009 ; Yang et al . 2013 , 2015 ). However, to date, much of this research has focused either on geographic areas that provide and deplete ES or on socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances (eg trade impacts on the movement of ES) independently. Some studies have attempted to identify beneficiaries, map the spatial flows of ES, and evaluate the impacts on beneficiaries’ wellbeing (Keeler et al . 2012 ; Bagstad et al . 2014 ; Dalin et al . 2014 ), but research on the provisioning, transfer, and benefits to human from ES is largely fragmented. While these disparate research foci have generated useful insights, achieving sustainability and enhancing human well- being requires a more thorough understanding of socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances (Liu et al . 2013 ). Here, we apply a new integrated framework of telecoupling (Liu et al . 2013 ) to systematically analyze the causes, effects, agents, and dynamics of ES flows over distance. Using water transfers over large distances in China as an example, we apply the telecoupling framework to ES supply and demand, and discuss implications for the governance of ES over distances.

DOI: 10.1002/16-0188.1

Type of Publication: Journal Article

Publisher: Ecological Society of America