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Understanding the role of conceptual frameworks: Reading the ecosystem service cascade

M. Potschin-Young, R. Haines-Young, Görg, C., U. Heink, K. Jax and C. Schleyer

Ecosystem Services, 2018, vol. 29, issue PC, 428-440

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to identify the role of conceptual frameworks in operationalising and mainstreaming the idea of ecosystem services. It builds on some initial discussions from IPBES, which suggested that conceptual frameworks could be used to: ‘simplify thinking’, ‘structure work’, ‘clarify issues’, and ‘provide a common reference point’. The analysis uses the cascade model as a focus and looks at the way it has been used in recent published material and across a set of case studies from the EU-funded OpenNESS Project as a device for conceptual framing. It found that there are examples in the literature that show the cascade model indeed being used as an ‘organising framework’, a tool for ‘re-framing’ perspectives, an ‘analytical template’, and as an ‘application framework’. Although the published materials on the cascade are rich, these accounts lack insights into the process by which the different versions of the model were created, and so we turned to the set of OpenNESS case studies to examine how they read the cascade. We found that the cascade was able to provide a common reference for a diverse set of studies, and that it was sufficiently flexible for it to be developed and elaborated in ways that were meaningful for the different place-based studies. The case studies showed that generalised models like the cascade can have an important ‘awareness-raising’ role. However, we found that using models of this kind it was more difficult for case studies to link their work to broader societal issues such as human well-being, sustainable ecosystem management, governance, and competitiveness, than to their own concerns. We therefore conclude that to be used effectively, conceptual models like the cascade may need to be supported by other materials that help users read it in different, outward looking ways. We also need to find mechanisms for capturing this experience so that it can be shared with others.

Keywords: Cascade model; Ecosystem services; Conceptual frameworks; Operationalisation; Mainstreaming (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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