Going Beyond the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: An Index System of Human Dependence on Ecosystem Services

Journal or Book Title: PLoS One

Volume/Issue: 8(5)

Page Number(s): e64581

Year Published: 2013


The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) estimated that two thirds of ecosystem services on the earth have degraded or are in decline due to the unprecedented scale of human activities during recent decades. These changes will have tremendous consequences for human well-being, and offer both risks and opportunities for a wide range of stakeholders. Yet these risks and opportunities have not been well managed due in part to the lack of quantitative understanding of human dependence on ecosystem services. Here, we propose an index of dependence on ecosystem services (IDES) system to quantify human dependence on ecosystem services. We demonstrate the construction of the IDES system using household survey data. We show that the overall index and sub-indices can reflect the general pattern of households' dependences on ecosystem services, and their variations across time, space, and different forms of capital (i.e., natural, human, financial, manufactured, and social capitals). We support the proposition that the poor are more dependent on ecosystem services and further generalize this proposition by arguing that those disadvantaged groups who possess low levels of any form of capital except for natural capital are more dependent on ecosystem services than those with greater control of capital. The higher value of the overall IDES or sub-index represents the higher dependence on the corresponding ecosystem services, and thus the higher vulnerability to the degradation or decline of corresponding ecosystem services. The IDES system improves our understanding of human dependence on ecosystem services. It also provides insights into strategies for alleviating poverty, for targeting priority groups of conservation programs, and for managing risks and opportunities due to changes of ecosystem services at multiple scales.

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064581

Type of Publication: Journal Article


Just Cebrian, MESC; University of South Alabama,