Elasticity in ecosystem services: exploring the variable relationship between ecosystems and human well-being

Authors Daw, T.M.; Hicks, C.C.; Brown, K.; Chaigneau, T.; Januchowski-Hartley, F.A.; Cheung, W.W.L.; Rosendo, S.; Crona, B.; Coulthard, S.; Sandbrook, C.; Perry, C.; Bandeira, S.; Muthiga, N.A.; Schulte-Herbruggen, B.; Bosire, J.; McClanahan, T.R.
Year of Publication 2016
Type of Publication Journal Article
Journal Ecology and Society
Volume 21
Issue 7
Open Access Yes


Although ecosystem services are increasingly recognized as benefits people obtain from nature, we still have a poor understanding of how they actually enhance multidimensional human well-being, and how well-being is affected by ecosystem change. We develop a concept of "ecosystem service elasticity" (ES elasticity) that describes the sensitivity of human well-being to changes in ecosystems. ES Elasticity is a result of complex social and ecological dynamics and is context dependent, individually variable, and likely to demonstrate nonlinear dynamics such as thresholds and hysteresis. We present a conceptual framework that unpacks the chain of causality from ecosystem stocks through flows, goods, value, and shares to contribute to the well-being of different people. This framework builds on previous conceptualizations, but places multidimensional well-being of different people as the final element. This ultimately disaggregated approach emphasizes how different people access benefits and how benefits match their needs or aspirations.