Research Handbooks on Impact Assessment series
Edited by Davide Geneletti
Chapter 5: Matching an ecosystem services approach with Social Impact Assessment
The development of collaborative and adaptive land use strategies requires a well-balanced framework that takes the interaction of socio-economic and ecological concerns into account. The ecosystem services approach is increasingly used in environmental sciences and management to stress the ecological benefits nature provides for people. Interaction with practitioners has demonstrated that they think and act in terms of socio-economic considerations. Therefore, direct inclusion of ecosystem services in local decision-making remains difficult. Since social demands and ecological supplies are not independent variables, it is necessary to raise the awareness of stakeholders and scientists towards the interdependencies and mutual feedback mechanisms between the natural and social spheres. The Social Impact Assessment delivers an approach leading to a better and more communicable framework addressing these linkages. In adaptive land use management, planners typically deal with balancing different activities and interests, and decision-makers and scientists jointly address the challenges posed by integrative and interdisciplinary management. To facilitate this complex task, this chapter provides a framework to identify the links between ecosystem services and social impacts, accounting for the social preferences and needs of local decision-makers. This methodological approach consists of three steps, starting with scientific based input and moving towards intensive stakeholder engagement. The framework was tested in the coastal community of Krummhörn (in north-western Germany) and the practical application showed that such a guideline could be used to assist planners and researchers in establishing a more integrated, participatory strategy development process, particularly in relation to regional development with consideration for the complex interactions between nature and society. Additionally, the framework contributes to the stakeholders’ understanding of how the concept of ecosystem services can be anchored in local decision-making and planning processes. The operationalization of the ecosystem services approach and Social Impact Analysis demonstrates that social demands and provision of ecosystem services are closely connected.
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