Paper 1: Strengthening conceptual foundation: analysing frameworks for ecosystem services and poverty alleviation research. Paper 2: Understanding the relationships between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation

This grant funded the open access publication of two papers

Paper 1: As interest grows in the contribution of ecosystem services to poverty alleviation, we present a new conceptual framework to support research and analysis. This ecosystem services and poverty alleviation (ESPA) framework synthesises insights from existing frameworks in social-ecological systems science and international development. In line with the anthropocentric premise of ecosystem services, and going beyond existing frameworks, this framework places people at the core, recognises their differentiation, and presents some characteristics of people that affect their access to ecosystem services. Emphasis is placed on access to, and control of, ecosystem services, because access will often be more of a constraint for the poorest than aggregate availability. Crucially also, the framework makes distinctions between categories of ecosystem service in terms of their contribution to wellbeing, and highlights that provisioning services and cash are comparatively easy to control. In its presentation of cash derived from ecosystem services, the framework gives analytical space for understanding the contribution of payments for ecosystem services to wellbeing, distinct from the contribution of direct ecosystem services. The ESPA framework highlights the role of consumption of ecosystem services by external actors, in the form of land appropriation, or agricultural commodities with ecosystem services footprints. Important conceptual distinctions are also made between poverty reduction and prevention, and also between human response options of adaptation and mitigation to environmental change. The framework has applications as a thinking tool, laying out the important relationships such that an analyst could identify and understand these in their particular application. Most immediately, this has research applications, as a basis for multidisciplinary, policy-relevant research, but there are also applications to support practitioners in pursuing joint policy objectives of environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation.


Paper 2: The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment highlighted the relationship between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation and catalyzed a research agenda in this field. This review paper is motivated by the premise that much work exists on poverty and environment that should not be overlooked with the adoption of the topical language of ecosystem services. We select and review nine conceptual frameworks, including Environmental Entitlements, Framework for Ecosystem Services Provision, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, political ecology, Resilience, Sustainable Livelihoods, Social Assessment of Protected Areas, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, and vulnerability. We make a comparative analysis of these frameworks, focusing particularly on their ability to illuminate the provision of ecosystem services, the condition, determinants and dynamics of poverty, and political economy factors that mediate the relationship between poverty and ecosystem services. The paper synthesizes the key contributions of each of these bodies of work, and the gaps they expose in one another, which leads to a number of lessons that can inform emerging research. Research on poverty alleviation must be able to recognise social differentiation. There is also a need to acknowledge the limits of ecosystem services for poverty alleviation, given much evidence that ecosystem services tend to be more associated with poverty prevention than reduction. The review highlights that further research is required on the nature of the contribution of different ecosystem services to poverty: regulating and provisioning services, for instance, have very different pathways of production, involving different spatial scales, networks of actors and means by which people benefit from them. A fundamental distinction is also highlighted between dynamic frameworks, which attempt to represent a system, and ones that represent more of a checklist of important factors. We conclude by suggesting research on ecosystem services and poverty alleviation would be well served by a new framework distilling insights from the frameworks reviewed here.