Disentangling ecosystem services preferences and values

Schutter, M.S. and Hicks, C.C. and Phelps, J. and Belmont, C. (2021) Disentangling ecosystem services preferences and values. World Development, 146. ISSN 0305-750X

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Preferences for ecosystem services provide information on what people find important in their human-nature relationships, which can enhance environmental governance. However, preferences are ‘reason-blind’, obscuring the underlying values that shape them. Increasingly, values – concepts or beliefs about desirable end states or behaviours that transcend specific situations and guide behaviour – receive attention in environmental governance, but lack of clarity in values terminology could hamper communication and reduce the ability to successfully align governance. There is a need to disentangle preferences and values to examine whether ecosystem services preferences provide adequate information on people's values. Seychelles provides an interesting case to study the relationship between policy, preferences, and values, due to recent neoliberal economic restructuring and emergence of the blue economy. We conducted 50 semi-structured interviews with resource users (fishers, tourism operators) and 130 population-wide Portrait Values Questionnaires to explore differences across the population and examine the link between values and preferences. We find a disconnect between ecosystem services preferences and underlying values. Exploring people's reasons for prioritising ecosystem services can improve understanding of underlying values, contribute to reconciling conflict, and clarify impacts on communities. Newly introduced worldviews and values accompanying the blue economy have the potential to clash with collectivist values found in Seychelles. Potential mismatches need explicit discussion to make decision-making more procedurally complete, but also improve equity and public support.

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Journal Article
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World Development
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27 Aug 2021 11:05
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 04:37