Images of nature as a boundary object in social and integrated ecosystem services assessments. Reflections from a Belgian case study

R. De Vreese, M. Leys, N. Dendoncker, A. Van Herzele, C. M. Fontaine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper contributes to the discussion on involving stakeholders in ecosystem services (ES) assessments and contributes to the practice of integrated ES assessments through introducing the images of nature concept. An inductive analysis of stakeholders' notions of nature, their use of nature and the perceived importance of ES functioning in their municipality generated a two-dimensional images of nature valuation framework. The first dimension describes a Nature versus Culture continuum. The second dimension refers to the Nature-Humankind relationship, including three relations: Nature and Landscape for People, People for Nature and Landscape and an Imbalanced relation. We discuss the potential of the images of nature concept as a boundary object for participatory integrated ES assessment, planning and management. We situate the emerged images of nature within traditional approaches to human-nature relations. Based on our observations, we challenge the ES concept and ES typology, and plea for an integrated ES assessment framework incorporating social, economic and biophysical perspectives. We finish with outlining how images of nature can be a tool within participatory integrated ES assessments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • Human-nature relationships
  • Integrated valuation
  • Notions of nature
  • Social ecosystem services assessment
  • Social valuation
  • Valuation framework

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