Are stakeholders’ social representations of nature and landscape compatible with the ecosystem service concept?

Rik De Vreese, Ann Van Herzele, Nicolas Dendoncker, Corentin M. Fontaine, Mark Leys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Implementing ecosystem services (ES)-based planning and management processes in practice, and mainstreaming the results in decision-making, is limited. Literature suggests this can be explained by a limited overlap between the ES concept and stakeholders’ representations of nature. Aims: We introduce social representations theory as an approach to discuss whether the theoretical ES concept is compatible with stakeholders’ social representations of nature. Methods: Thirty-nine stakeholders actively involved in the use and management of a peri-urban study area in Belgium were interviewed about their representation of nature. Conclusions: Like the ES concept, stakeholders’ representation of nature includes an anthropocentric view, but stakeholders also stress the role and responsibility of humans in sustaining ecosystems and regulating nature (which is a relational value). From the qualitative analysis we conclude that the theoretical ES concept and ES classifications are not sufficiently reflecting stakeholders’ representations of nature, mainly on the human-nature relationship. The social representations technique provides handles to design ES-based processes according to stakeholders’ representations. This can result in more effective ES-based planning and management processes and improved understanding among stakeholders and between stakeholders and process managers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100911
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Ecosystem service valuation
  • Land-use planning
  • Natural resource management
  • Participatory ecosystem service assessment
  • Relational values
  • Shared values

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