The Snakes and Ladders of Ecosystem Services

Forest Planet

The trend towards applying economic value to forest ecosystems is contentious. While the valuing of the processes of nature (“ecosystem services”) or valuing of their stock value (“natural capital”) is potentially advantageous in helping to tackle challenges of nature’s conservation and protection, it is not unambiguously beneficial. I therefore wanted to find a way to visualise the sometimes contradictory nature of the ecosystem services approach, to convey the pros and cons, and to get away from binary arguments of being either “for” or “against”. The Snakes and Ladders motif seemed appropriate. All those involved (well, almost all) share the same ultimate goal — a sustainable solution to preserving our remaining natural ecosystems (and that is sustainable both in biological and social terms). But an ecosystem services approach leads you on a path that is both advantageous and perilous. There are some clear “ladders” that offer us chances to move us…

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