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Trade-off decisions in ecosystem management for poverty alleviation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Marije Schaafsma, Felix Eigenbrod, Alexandros Gasparatos, Nicole Gross-Camp, Craig Hutton, Fiona Nunan, Kate Schreckenberg, Kerry Turner

Original languageEnglish
Article number107103
Pages (from-to)107103
Number of pages13
PublishedSep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: MS was funded by the project ‘A framework for individual and shared preferences for ecosystem services trade-offs’ (grant number: FELL-2014-104 ) of the United Kingdom's Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme. The ESPA programme was funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) , the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) , and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) . Funding Information: FE was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant number 680176 ; SCALEFORES). Funding Information: AG acknowledges the support of the ESPA project ‘Unraveling biofuel impacts on ecosystem services, human wellbeing and poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa’ (grant number: NE/L001373/1 ) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) for the Belmont Forum project FICESSA . Funding Information: FN acknowledges funding from the ESPA project ‘Swahili Seas’ (grant number: NE/I003401/1 ), ‘Coastal Ecosystem Services in East Africa’ (CESEA) (grant number: NE/L001535/1 ) and ‘ Analysing the multi-level governance of renewable natural resources ’ (grant number: ESPA/ROF/2016-17/02 ). Funding Information: CH acknowledges funding from the ESPA project ‘Assessing Health, Livelihoods, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation in Populous Deltas’ (grant number: NE-J002755-1 ). Funding Information: NGC was supported by the European Research Council (Grant No. GA 206994 REDIRECT). Funding Information: KS acknowledges funding from the ESPA project ‘Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems using Trade-off Scenarios’ (grant number: NE-J002267-1 ). Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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The academic literature on trade-offs in ecosystem management has paid relatively little attention to justice and poverty reduction objectives. The aim of this paper is to highlight the multiple dimensions of trade-offs in ecosystem services management for poverty alleviation, and to support decision-makers in planning for the almost inevitable trade-offs arising from environmental interventions. The paper brings together different dimensions or lenses through which to analyse trade-offs in ecosystem management for poverty alleviation in a low-income country context. Following a literature review of trade-off decisions, the paper introduces the Balance Sheets Approach to structure trade-off analysis and appraise decisions. We apply the Balance Sheets Approach to analyse five case studies set in very different social-ecological systems where trade-offs were pertinent and undermined poverty alleviation. We show how the combination of ‘positive’ approaches, often used at strategic level, with ‘value’ approaches which analyse multiple values, multi-scale governance, power
and capacity, is necessary to analyse complex trade-offs. Based on the case studies we identify four lessons for future trade-off analysis in the context of ecosystem management for poverty alleviation in low-income settings.

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