As interest grows in the contribution of ecosystem services to poverty alleviation, we present a new conceptual framework, synthesizing insights from existing frameworks in social–ecological systems science and international development. People have differentiated abilities to benefit from ecosystem services, and the framework places emphasis on access to services, which may constrain the poorest more than aggregate availability. Distinctions are also made between categories of ecosystem service in their contribution to wellbeing, provisioning services and cash being comparatively easy to control. The framework gives analytical space for understanding the contribution of payments for ecosystem services to wellbeing, as distinct from direct ecosystem services. It also highlights the consumption of ecosystem services by external actors, through land appropriation or agricultural commodities. Important conceptual distinctions are made between poverty reduction and prevention, and between human response options of adaptation and mitigation in response to environmental change. The framework has applications as a thinking tool, laying out important relationships such that an analyst could identify and understand these in a particular situation. Most immediately, this has research applications, as a basis for multidisciplinary, policy-relevant research, but there are also applications to support practitioners in pursuing joint policy objectives of environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation.
Fisher, J.A.; Patenaude, G.; Giri, K.; Lewis, K.; Meir, P.; Pinho, P.; Rounsevell, M.D.A.; Williams, M. Understanding the relationships between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation: A conceptual framework. Ecosystem Services (2014) 7: 34-45. [DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2013.08.002]