Variability in ecosystem service measurement: a pollination service case study

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Abstract

Research quantifying ecosystem services (ES) – collectively, the benefits that society obtains from ecosystems –is rapidly increasing. Despite the seemingly straightforward definition, a wide variety of methods are used to measure ES. This methodological variability has largely been ignored, and standard protocols to select measures that capture ES provision have yet to be established. Furthermore, most published papers do not include explicit definitions of individual ES. We surveyed the literature on pollination ES to assess the range of measurement approaches, focusing on three essential steps: (1) definition of the ES, (2) identification of components contributing to ES delivery, and (3) selection of metrics to represent these components. We found considerable variation in how pollination as an ES – a relatively well-defined service – is measured. We discuss potential causes of this variability and provide suggestions to address this issue. Consistency in ES measurement, or a clear explanation of selected definitions and metrics, is critical to facilitate comparisons among studies and inform ecosystem management.

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