New jargon seeping slowly into biodiversity world

Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, UK.

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University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

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The debate around which framework to use to value biodiversity (see Nature 560, 423–425, 2018) could stem from the relatively recent coining and adoption of the concept of nature’s contribution to people (NCP; S. Diaz et al. Science 359, 270–272; 2018).

Google Scholar returns only 19 hits for NCP and nearly 100,000 for ecosystem services, mainly because the latter has been in use for much longer. By contrast, this year’s summary for policymakers in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Europe and Central Asia assessment received 115 and 37 hits, respectively. Given that assessments by IPBES synthesize and build on large bodies of existing scientific and other types of information, the discrepancy in the numbers could imply that the two concepts are used interchangeably.

It takes many years of careful work, peer review and weighing of evidence for a conceptual framework to become widely adopted. The term ecosystem services had its breakthrough at the time of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, after some 15 years of development. Much effort has since been spent working with governments to mainstream the concept to underpin action.

It will be difficult for academics and governments to adopt a new paradigm without a proper, rigorous test of its utility. We are convinced that the ecosystem services and NCP world views can be reconciled, and ultimately both need to be endorsed. The degradation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity remain pressing problems however they are conceptualized.

Nature 562, 39 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06893-1

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