Opportunities and challenges for mainstreaming ecosystem services in decision making

Sitas, Nadia (2014-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Ecosystem service research has grown significantly in recent years, highlighting links between ecosystem services and human well-being. Few studies are however, geared towards providing user-friendly, user-useful and user-relevant information suitable for implementing effective local management of areas that deliver ecosystem services, resulting in a gap between ecosystem service research and management. In response to this challenge, it has been argued that in order to safeguard the benefit flows provided by ecosystems, the concept of ecosystem services should be mainstreamed into land-use (and water-use) planning and management processes. As the conservation of ecosystem services is ultimately a social process operating in a social context, understanding the complexity of the research-management interface demands input from a range of stakeholders. Thus, mainstreaming the environment into decision making requires multi-stakeholder engagement processes that facilitate the co-production and exchange of knowledge. Accordingly, through the use of a transdisciplinary, mixed method approach, this dissertation contributes to a better understanding of some of the opportunities and challenges for mainstreaming ecosystem services in development planning at a local level, using a case study in the Eden District (Eden) of South Africa. Through an extensive stakeholder engagement process which explored what the information needs, responsibilities and capacities of decision makers in Eden are, both opportunities that facilitate the integration of ecosystem service information in decision making, and challenges impeding integration, have been identified. This research found that despite a history of ecosystem service research in Eden, there has been limited integration of the concept of ecosystem services into decision-making processes driving development. Insufficient capacity, limited resources, minimal proactive planning, a weak regulatory environment, entrenched disciplinary thinking and insufficient communication amongst diverse stakeholders on the benefits of using an ecosystem-based approach remain as challenges for the mainstreaming of ecosystem services in decision making. However, strategic opportunities for mainstreaming ecosystem services into decisions regarding current and future development trajectories were also found. It was found that the development, and nurturing of transdisciplinary learning networks that are problem driven, and action oriented, using a communities of practice model of engagement, can facilitate legitimate knowledge exchange processes. In this regard, the role of individual and institutional knowledge brokers was found to be critical. It was also found that the concept of risk was useful as a mainstreaming tool in bridging the gaps between different disciplines, and between science, policy and practice. A frame of risk enabled different disciplinary and knowledge communities to participate in joint activities and discussions during which information was co-produced and exchanged. Through this work, new relationships were built that facilitated both learning and action with regards to the importance of ecosystem services for mitigating risk.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Ekosisteemdiens-navorsing het aansienlik gegroei in die afgelope jare, met ‘n klem op die verband tussen ekosisteemdienste en menslike welsyn. Min ondersoeke is egter gerig op die verskaffing van gebruikersvriendelike, -nuttige en -relevante inligting wat geskik is vir die implementering van doeltreffende plaaslike bestuur van die gebiede wat ekosisteemdienste lewer, en dit lei tot 'n gaping tussen ekosisteemdiens-navorsing en -bestuur. In reaksie op hierdie uitdaging word aangevoer dat ekosisteemdienste gehoofstroom moet word in prosesses ter beplanning en bestuur van grond- en watergebruik, ten einde die voordele wat deur ekosisteme gebied word, te beskerm. Omdat die behoud van ekosisteemdienste per slot van rekening `n sosiale proses is wat in `n sosiale konteks in werking is, word insette van 'n verskeidenheid van belanghebbendes vereis, om die ingewikkelde aard van die koppelvlak tussen navorsing en bestuur te verstaan. Dus, om die omgewing in besluitneming te hoofstroom, vereis prosesse van betrokkenheid van veelvuldige belanghebbendes, wat die medevervaardiging en uitruil van kennis fasiliteer. Gevolglik, deur die toepassing van `n transdissiplinêre, gemengde metode benadering in `n gevallestudie in die Eden Distrik (Eden) van Suid-Afrika, dra hierdie verhandeling by tot `n beter begrip van sommige van die geleenthede en uitdagings verbonde aan die hoofstroming van ekosisteemdienste in ontwikkelingsbeplanning op 'n plaaslike vlak. Deur `n uitvoerige proses van deelname met belanghebbendes is inligting benodig deur besluitnemers in Eden, sowel as hul verantwoordelikhede en vermoëns, verken, en sodoende is beide die geleenthede wat die integrasie van ekosisteemdiens-inligting in besluiteming fasiliteer, en uitdagings wat integrasie belemmer, geïdentifiseer. Hierdie navorsing het bevind dat, ten spyte van `n geskiedenis van ekosisteemdiens-navorsing in Eden, is daar beperkte integrasie van die konsep van ekosisteemdiens in besluitnemingsprosesse wat ontwikkeling dryf. Onvoldoende kapasiteit, beperkte hulpbronne, minimale proaktiewe beplanning, 'n swak reguleringsomgewing, verskanste dissiplinêre denkwyses en onvoldoende kommunikasie tussen uiteenlopende belanghebbendes oor die voordele verbonde aan die gebruik van 'n ekosisteembenadering, bly uitdagings vir die hoofstroming van ekosisteemdienste in besluitneming. Maar strategiese geleenthede vir die hoofstroming van ekosisteemdienste in besluitneming in verband met huidige en toekomstige ontwikkelingsbane is ook aangetref. Daar is bevind dat, deur transdissiplinêre leernetwerke wat probleemgedrewe en aksie-georiënteerd is, te ontwikkel en koester met behulp van 'n praktykgemeenskappemodel van betrokkenheid, legitieme kennisuitruilingsprosesse gefasiliteer kan word. In hierdie verband is die rol van individuele en institusionele kennismakelaars as krities bevind. Daar is ook bevind dat die konsep van risiko nuttig is as 'n hoofstromings-instrument in die oorbrugging van die gaping tussen die verskillende dissiplines, en tussen wetenskap, beleid en praktyk. `n Raamwerk van risiko het verskillende dissiplinêre en kennisgemeenskappe in staat gestel om deel te neem aan gesamentlike aktiwiteite en besprekings, waartydens inligting saam geproduseer en uitgeruil is. Deur hierdie werk is nuwe verhoudings gevestig, wat beide leer en optrede rakende die belang van ekosisteemdienste vir risikotempering gefasiliteer het.

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