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Exploring the gap between ecosystem service research and management in development planning

Sitas, Nadia ; Prozesky, Heidi. E. ; Esler, Karen. J. ; Reyers, Belinda (2014-06)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

The original publication is available at

Please cite as follows:

Sitas, N., Prozesky, H.E., Esler, K.J. & Reyers, B. 2014. Exploring the gap between ecosystem service research and management in development planning. Sustainability, 6(6): 3802-3824, doi:10.3390/su6063802.


The gap between science and practice has been highlighted in a number of scientific disciplines, including the newly developing domain of ecosystem service science, posing a challenge for the sustainable management of ecosystem services for human wellbeing. While methods to explore science-practice gaps are developing, testing and revisions of these methods are still needed so as to identify opportunities for mainstreaming ecosystem service science into development policies and practice. We designed and tested an approach to explore the presence and nature of a research-management gap in order to identify ways to close the gap, using a South African case study. Our combining of traditional review processes with stakeholder interviews highlighted that ecosystem services are not explicitly referred to by the majority of ecosystem management-related documents, processes or individuals. Nevertheless, at the local level, our approach unearthed strategic opportunities for bridging the gap in the tourism, disaster management and conservation sectors. We also highlighted the current trend towards transdisciplinary learning networks seen in the region. While we found a gap between the research and management of ecosystem services, a rigorous study thereof, which transcends its mere identification, proved useful in identifying key opportunities and challenges for bridging the gap.

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