Lack of attention to social complexity has created a gap between current ecosystem service research and the kind of insights needed to inform ecosystem management in the tropics. To contribute to closing this gap, this study applies a methodology for exploring complex linkages between ecosystem services and human wellbeing. This builds on emerging frameworks for studying multiple dimensions of human wellbeing, drawing on Amartya Sen's capabilities approach to human development. The approach is applied to an empirical case study of three sites adjacent to native tropical forest in western Rwanda. The value of exploring social complexity in ecosystem services research is illustrated through its contribution to understanding: (a) different types of values; (b) disaggregation of people; (c) power relations and their influence on trade-offs; (d) the importance of multiple land use types in the landscape; and (e) changes and their drivers at multiple scales. The analysis reveals that the majority of services valued by forest-adjacent Rwandan inhabitants are not provided by tropical forests but by other habitats. We suggest that more integrated landscape governance may offer synergistic opportunities for conservation and development.
Dawson, N.; Martin, A. Assessing the contribution of ecosystem services to human wellbeing: A disaggregated study in western Rwanda. Ecological Economics (2015) 117: 62-72. [DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.06.018]