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Comparative Assessment of Ecosystem Services in Diverse Socio-Ecological Systems in Response to Land Use and Climate Variability

Project title Comparative Assessment of Ecosystem Services in Diverse Socio-Ecological Systems in Response to Land Use and Climate Variability
Implementing Institutions Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru,  Karnataka, India
Country(ies) India
Abstract By adopting a socio-ecological system approach in which  ecosystem services are co-generated by human-nature interactions, we hope to generate local, regional and national knowledge that can inform management and policies that contribute to the design of sustainable development and conservation. Our approach has policy and replication value. The diversity of socio-ecological systems that our project seeks to engage with will help build capacity to pursue national assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services. 
Project Description Despite the apparent success of the concept of ecosystem services, the progress in their practical application in land use planning and local decision-making has been slow. This stems from failures of markets and existing institutions to capture values of ecosystem services and also a limited understanding of the complex socio-ecological, economic and political dimensions of ecosystem services at various scales.   To address the conceptual and methodological challenges of using the ecosystem services for sustainable development, it is required that we discard the idea of  ecosystems producing services that humans appropriate or use, and instead adopt the concept of socio-ecological systems in which ecosystem functions and the services are a result of two way interactions and feed-backs between nature and humans. A comparative approach to finding general principles for ecosystem services, and dynamic interactions between social and ecological systems across diverse systems will further help in clarifying the complexities  pertaining to ecosystem services. 

Our comparative socio-ecological approach can develop policy

development and decision-making capacities for using assessment findings. Our project's contribution is to inform local management, national and state policies on environmental flows in rivers, the Green India Mission, and the Ganga River cleanup initiative.   

Project Objectives and expected Achievables Objectives

• Identify ecological and socio-economic mechanisms interacting to co-produce and maintain ecosystem services across diverse landscapes and waterscapes

• Understand dynamics of interactions between socio-ecological systems and ecosystem services

• Address issues of complex trade-offs between key services based on detailed sociological, ecological and economic analyses

• Highlight the implications of these trade-offs for ecological and human wellbeing

Achievables and Measures

1. Interdisciplinary analysis of research topics such as ecosystem service tradeoffs, cross-system analysis of SES, and linkages between SES and ecosystem services. Such analysis will be communicated as research papers in international peer-reviewed journals. 

2. Policy Briefs that will be shared with Central and State government ministries and statutory bodies such as the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) and the Green India Mission (GIM). These briefs will contain specific recommendations for sustainable and socially equitable management of ecosystem services.

3. Technical training for collection of ecological and social data in an interdisciplinary framework on ecosystem services and SES, and to build capacity over management of trade-offs in ecosystem services through regional and national level workshops. Academics, scientists, researchers and students, as well as policy makers and civil society groups will be engaged in the capacity building and training workshops.

4. Consultations with local stakeholder groups which is a critical step in our specific aim to disseminate research outputs and findings with local communities most likely to relate to local issues in managing trade-offs.



2016: Planning and Research.

2016-2017: Data collection and analysis of socio-ecological systems. 

2018- 2019: Reports, papers, policy briefs and workshops.


Timeframe 3 years
Geographic Scale Sub-national
Seeking Resources for: Project implementation
Type of Resources/Support needed: Financial