So you want your research to be relevant? Building the bridge between ecosystem services research and practice

Last modified: 
July 10, 2017 - 11:32am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2017
Date published: 08/2017
Authors: Lydia Olander, Stephen Polasky, James Kagan, Robert Johnston, Lisa Wainger, David Saah, Lynn Maguire, James Boyd, David Yoskowitz
Journal title: Ecosystem Services
Volume: 26
Pages: 170 - 182
ISSN: 22120416

There is growing demand for information regarding the impacts of decisions on ecosystem services and human benefits. Despite the large and growing quantity of published ecosystem services research, there remains a substantial gap between this research and the information required to support decisions. Research often provides models and tools that do not fully link social and ecological systems; are too complex, specialized, and costly to use; and are targeted to outcomes that differ from those needed by decision makers. Decision makers require cost-effective, straightforward, transferable, scalable, meaningful, and defensible methods that can be readily understood. We provide illustrative examples of these gaps between research and practice and describe how researchers can make their work relevant to decision makers by using Benefit Relevant Indicators (BRIs) and choosing models appropriate for particular decision contexts. We use examples primarily from the United States, including cases that illustrate varying degrees of success in closing these gaps. We include a discussion of the challenges and opportunities researchers face in adapting their work to meet the needs of practitioners.

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