Assessing the Relationship Between Human Well-being and Ecosystem Services: A Review of Frameworks

Focusing on the most impoverished populations, we critically review and synthesise key themes from dominant frameworks for assessing the relationship between well-being and ecosystem services in developing countries. This requires a differentiated approach to conceptualising well-being that appropriately reflects the perspectives of the poorest–those most directly dependent on ecosystem services, and their vulnerability to external and policy-driven environmental change. The frameworks analysed draw upon environmental sciences, economics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, and were selected on the basis of their demonstrated or potential ability to illustrate the relationship between environmental change and human well-being, as well as their prevalence in real world applications. Thus, the synthesis offered here is informed by the various theoretical, methodological, and hermeneutical contributions from each field to the notion of well-being. The review highlights several key dimensions that should be considered by those interested in understanding and assessing the impact of environmental change on the well-being of the world’s poorest people: the importance of interdisciplinary consideration of well-being, the need for frameworks that integrate subjective and objective aspects of well-being, and the central importance of context and relational aspects of well-being. The review is of particular interest to those engaged in the post-2015 development agenda.

Agarwala, M., Atkinson, G., Palmer Fry, B., Homewood, K. Mourato, S. Rowcliffe, J.M., Wallace, G., and Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2014) In: Conservation and Society 12(4): 437-449.