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Involving Stakeholders’ Knowledge in Co-designing Social Valuations of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Implications for Decision-Making

  • Stanley T. AsahEmail author
  • Dale J. Blahna


We contribute to addressing two gaps that reduce the utility of ecosystem sciences for decision-making: lack of standard methods for using stakeholders’ knowledge to co-design ecosystem services science research, and absence of commensurable social valuation metrics that allow effective value comparisons. In two phases, we used co-designed instruments to conduct social valuation of biodiversity, and provisioning, cultural and regulating services. First, we conducted eight participatory fora, where experts and non-experts identified ecosystem aspects to which they ascribe value. We combined knowledge from the fora—expert and non-expert—and the literature to identify 45 ecosystem aspects of value—importance—to people. Second, we organized the valued aspects into four psychometric social valuation instruments that were reviewed and contributed to by experts and non-experts. We used those instruments in a survey questionnaire completed by 968 residents of Deschutes County, USA. Co-design led to high valuation reliabilities. The omission of either expert or non-expert knowledge would have resulted in suboptimal valuation. Unexpectedly, biodiversity was valued more than any category of ecosystem services, and urban sprawl regulation—a novel non-expert-identified function—was valued more than all aspects of climate regulation. These findings—directly resulting from co-design—illustrate that co-designed commensurable metrics are adaptable to various decision contexts; they can provide issue-specific valuations and comparisons, broader valuations, comparisons between specific and broader ecosystem services, and equity-based parameters for addressing distributional concerns vital to decision-making. Co-designed commensurable metrics lead to social valuations that are better suited for decision-making and for persuasive communication of those decisions to enhance social compliance.


psychometrics reliability validity commensurability legitimacy behavioral compliance 



We are grateful to the stakeholders who participated in the identification of valued ecosystem aspects and to the subjects of the social valuation. We thank D. French and I. Bell for help with the participatory identification, and B. Hagood, C. Henderson and R. Roberts for their assistance in administering the social valuation. We thank two anonymous reviewers, the subject matter editor and the editor for their constructive contributions. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, funded this study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, College of the EnvironmentUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationSeattleUSA

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