UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Managing Cultural Ecosystem Services for Sustainability Chan, Kai M.A.; Satterfield, Terre


It is widely recognized that ecosystems provide people with important non-material benefits “through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). These ecological contributions to non-material or ‘extramaterial’ benefits, including both experiences and capabilities, have come to be known amongst ecologists and resource managers as ‘cultural ecosystem services’ (CES) (Chan et al., 2011). These ecosystem services (ES) are some of the most salient and compelling reasons for people to conserve or restore natural systems (Chan et al., 2012a). Accordingly, the management of CES is an essential consideration for sustainability, both because CES are crucial contributors to human well-being and because they may be key to sustainable human-ecological relationships. Whereas CES were initially considered to be one class of ES alongside other categories (the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment also recognized provisioning, regulating, and supporting ES) (Daily, 1997, MA 2005), it has become increasingly clear that cultural practices and phenomena and CES are closely linked and are the lens through which many other ES derive meaning (Chan et al., 2011, Chan et al., 2012b, Church et al., 2011, Poe et al., 2013, de Groot et al., 2005). Indeed, in some social-ecological systems, provisioning services are so important locally precisely because they are the conduit for CES. In coastal British Columbia, Canada, for example, research has indicated that many extra-material benefits are associated with provisioning services, especially fishing of all kinds (e.g., subsistence or food fish, commercial, or recreational) (Klain et al., 2014, Klain and Chan, 2012). City dwellers appear to be comparatively more focused on non-material CES derived from non-extractive recreational experiences and associated imagining (Martín-López et al., 2012). Regardless, CES continue to be key to human relationships with and understandings of nature, shaping the very worldviews containing the meaning of these relationships (Church et al., 2011, Chan et al., 2012b, Tengberg et al., 2012, Gould et al., 2014a, Matsuoka and Kaplan, 2008). More recently, the centrality of the meaning-making processes associated with knowing, perceiving, interacting with, and living within landscapes (Russell et al., 2013) has been coined the ‘culturality of ecosystem services’ (Pröpper and Haupts, 2014). In short: as a class of ES, CES are foundational: managing CES means managing other ES, and vice versa. Although the notion of sustainability is present explicitly or implicitly in prominent writing on ES (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005, TEEB 2009), the culturality of ES shines a light on an unresolved tension that has yet to be addressed. That is, we might be able to imagine the sustainable management of a provisioning or regulating ES, but perhaps not what it means to sustainably manage CES. Human needs for protein, fiber, and physical security might seem stable requisites of any system. Likely less stable are cultural and social systems and linked CES, as changes to these systems may predictably or unpredictably change CES in complex ways. This is particularly so when trying to ‘manage’ for different futures, developments or generations. What landscape features and configurations will future generations find attractive? What sites and landscapes will they find spiritually fulfilling, saturated with meaning and histories of place, or appropriate setting for social well-being? Clearly, for CES—and so all ES— sustainable management implies more than the maintenance of particular ecosystem stocks or flows. What sustainability might imply for CES—and so all ES—is the subject of this chapter. We first briefly review the history of research and thinking on CES. We then consider more fully the potential operationalization of connections between biophysical attributes and culture or non-material values. Turning our attention to sustainability, we discuss the implications of competing notions of sustainability for management. On that basis, we integrate considerations of CES and sustainability to advance several propositions regarding appropriate management for CES and so all ES.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

Usage Statistics