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Scenarios and models

New scenarios and supporting assessments

The IPBES Scenarios and Models expert group (2016-2019) and task force (2019 - present) have to build on the Assessment Report (2016) and continue advanced work on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services. The aim is that such policy support tools will help guide decision-making, by taking into account the multiple values of nature and its contributions to people. The two main deliverables are: 

  1. Providing expert advice to relevant expert groups of the Platform, in particular those undertaking assessments, on the use of existing scenarios and models to address current IPBES needs, and
  2. Catalysing the further development of scenarios and models by the broader scientific community for future IPBES assessments.

An important step for IPBES is to catalyse the development of nature-centred multi-scale scenarios for a sustainable future and to facilitate cross-scale and cross-sectoral coordination to assess and reverse declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES). Existing scenario approaches have limitations and gaps that constrain their usefulness for BES, particularly with limited ability to incorporate policy objectives related to nature conservation and human well-being. To address these issues, the IPBES Scenarios and Models Expert Group initiated the development of a set of multiscale scenarios for Nature Futures based on positive visions for human relationships with nature.

The development of positive scenarios on the future of nature and nature’s contributions to people comprises an iterative process shown in Figure 1, including iterative stakeholder consultations throughout the process. Initial work progressed by the expert group covered: 1) the formulation of positive future visions for nature[1]; 2) the development of the Nature Future Framework to facilitate the development of new global BES scenarios[2]; and progress on the modelling of BES scenarios using existing scenario frameworks. Current work is focused on: 3) the development of the first suite of Nature Future Scenarios and associated narratives or ‘storylines’ that describe “what the world looks like” in each Nature Future Scenario; 4) further development of indicators required to address new BES variables within each Scenario; and, 5) quantification of these storylines within iterative modelling and scenario analysis. The Nature Futures Scenarios thus integrate both qualitative narratives and quantitative model output.

Figure 1: Iterative process for Nature Futures Scenarios development. 

Nature Futures Framework

The Nature Futures scenarios are envisaged to shift traditional ways of forecasting impacts of society on nature to nature-centred visions and pathways that will integrate interlinkages of social-ecological systems across direct and indirect drivers, biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services, and human well-being, incorporating multiple systems of knowledge across scale and sectors [3]. They will explore the impacts of alternative policy and management options in nature conservation and sustainable development, supported by the improved use of scenarios and modelling.

The Nature Futures Framework (NFF) forms the foundation for developing scenarios of positive futures for nature, to help inform assessments of policy options across multiple scales. The NFF places relationships between people and nature at its core. Because people relate to nature in multiple ways, there are a wide variety of desirable nature futures, with different goals and visions which can be synergistic or in conflict with one another. The NFF was informed by a visioning exercise with diverse stakeholders including indigenous peoples, the private sector, civil society organizations, decision-makers, and scientists [1]. This exercise generated seven positive future visions for nature (see Figure 2), which were further developed and assessed at participatory workshops and stakeholder consultations hosted by the IPBES Expert Group on Scenarios and Models.


Figure 2: Seven positive future visions for nature, developed at the 2017 workshop on Visions for nature and nature’s contributions to people for the 21st century, Auckland, New Zealand [1].

The NFF is organized around three main perspectives, abbreviated as Nature for Nature, Nature for Society, and Nature as Culture (Figure 3).


Figure 3: Pluralistic Nature Futures Framework to capture the multiplicity of relationships between people and nature: Nature as Culture (blue) where society lives in harmony with nature; Nature for Society (green) where utilitarian values for nature dominate; and Nature for Nature (orange) where intrinsic values for nature, its species, habitats, and ecosystems, are given a higher value than benefits to humans [4]. 

In the Nature for Nature perspective, people view nature as having intrinsic value, and value is placed on the diversity of species, habitats, and ecosystems that form the natural world, and nature’s ability to function autonomously.

The Nature for Society perspective highlights the utilitarian benefits that nature provides to people and societies. This view is reflected in concepts such as ecosystem services, natural capital, green infrastructure, and nature-based solutions which exemplify nature as a provider of services to society [5].

Nature as Culture highlights perspectives of nature and people in harmony, where societies, cultures, traditions and faiths are intertwined with nature in shaping cultural landscapes. Relational values of nature are emphasized in cultural geography and social-ecological systems research and exemplify spiritual and other non-material nature relationships [6].


 [1] Lundquist et al. (2017) Visions for nature and nature’s contributions to people for the 21st century (report of the stakeholder workshop held in Auckland)
[2] ‘Next steps in developing nature futures’. June 2018, The Hague, The Netherlands [Link]
[3] Rosa, I. M., Pereira, H. M., Ferrier, S., Alkemade, R., Acosta, L. A., Akcakaya, H. R., ... & Harhash, K. A. (2017). Multiscale scenarios for nature futures. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1(10), 1416-1419.
[4] Lundquist, C. J., Pereira, H.M., Peterson, G. D., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S., Pereira, L., Acosta, L. A., ... & Alkemade, A.  A pluralistic Nature Futures Framework (In preparation)
[5] Pascual, U., Balvanera, P., Díaz, S., Pataki, G., Roth, E., Stenseke, M., ... & Maris, V. (2017). Valuing nature’s contributions to people: the IPBES approach. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 26, 7-16.
[6] Chan, K. M., Gould, R. K., & Pascual, U. (2018). Editorial overview: Relational values: what are they, and what’s the fuss about?.