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The role of statistics in the analysis of ecosystem services


  • This article is published in Environmetrics as a special issue on Quantitative approaches to ecosystem service evaluation, edited by R. I. Smith, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK; E. M. Scott, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Glasgow, UK; J. McP. Dick, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK.


Operationalising the holistic approach implicit in an ecosystem services assessment is a challenge, incorporating social and economic considerations alongside the physical, chemical and biological function of ecosystems. The paper considers the role of statistics within a range of frameworks proposed for the analysis of ecosystem services. The use of different statistical techniques within the component parts of an ecosystem services assessment framework are discussed, including (1) data availability and sampling strategies, (2) statistical data analysis, (3) geography and spatial models, (4) meta-analysis, (5) environmental models, (6) societal models, (7) feedbacks and loop analysis, and (8) graphical models including Bayesian belief networks. Issues of value and the potential for a statistical contribution to multivariate non-monetary valuation are considered. We argue that statistics has an underpinning role by providing tools to link together the component elements along with their uncertainties for a thorough ecosystem services assessment, and should be an integral part of this developing inter-disciplinary research area. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.