Changing perspectives: Nature’s contribution to people in the past, present and future of a changing climate

The assessment of the value of nature to human well-being has commonly been based on the

concept of ecosystem services as defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Millenium

Ecosystem Assessment 2005). Ecosystem services are the contributions of ecosystems, i.e. the

natural environment, to human well-being, such as the provision of clean air and water

(regulating services), the production of economic value such as timber and fuel (provisioning

services), the preservation of biodiversity (supporting services) and cultural values such as

recreation and tourism (cultural services). The concept of ecosystem services has been

criticised, most recently by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and

Ecosystem Services (IPBES; Díaz et al. 2018; Büscher et al. 2012, Yusoff 2011, Sullivan 2009,

Spash 2008) for being largely built on knowledge from natural sciences and the economic value

of these services and to a lesser extent on social sciences. These perceived shortcomings gave

rise to the concept of “nature’s contribution to people” (NCP) which aims to shift the focus to the

context-dependency and individuality of cultural values and their interconnectedness with other

ecosystem services (Kenter et al. 2015, Leyshon 2014).

In order to improve our knowledge of NCPs and their complexity, the IPBES is preparing the

Values Assessment report, in which the breadth of the values of nature to humans is

investigated. In response to this, we aim to initiate a new transdisciplinary approach to assess

the NCPs in light of a changing climate by engaging different stakeholder groups as participants

of the research instead of study objects.

We will use the Abisko area of Swedish Lapland as a case study site to investigate how different

stakeholders perceive the value of this natural environment to their well-being. The access to

the vulnerable arctic ecosystem in Abisko by a diverse group of stakeholders, such as tourists

and the indigenous community, makes it an intriguing conservation and ecology study site. It

has been show that fostering public engagement and input has a positive impact on informing

natural resource management, environmental protection and policymaking (McKinley et al.

2017). Therefore, our approach primarily aims to create a common dialogue between the

stakeholders involved with this particular ecosystem. We also aim to raise awareness of the role

nature has for people’s individual well-being and to encourage individuals to personally assess

the impact of changes in nature on their lives.

The novelty and transdisciplinary nature of this project lies in the combination of natural

sciences, social sciences and arts. We will merge objective observations of nature with a survey

of individual’s experiences with nature, storytelling and cultural commentary. A holistic

recognition, understanding and assessment of the diversity and complexity of values ascribed to

nature, biodiversity and ecosystems can only be achieved by crossing the conventional

disciplinary boundaries. The resulting solidarity could, then, help inform policy decisions and

guide people’s policy preferences.


Schermafbeelding 2019-04-10 om 21.20.21.

© Polarforsknings Sekretariatet

Arctic Citizen Observers (ArCO): We will establish a trial opportunity to assess how suitable

nature trails are for citizen science projects. It will not only allow people to have a direct sense of

the current changes in the ecosystem, but also expand the scientific observations in glaciology,

plant ecology and soundscape ecology. Along the hiking trails in the Abisko region, the

mountain stations and camping huts provide good observation stations to engage ‘citizen

scientists’ in collection of data. At the local hiking trails at the Abisko tourist station and some of

the camping huts along the northern part of the King’s trail, we will establish ‘observation

stations’ and ‘sit spots’.

At the observation stations, we will set up simple data collection activities for citizen scientists

including, for example, temperature measurements, plant species phenology and observations

of animals. At the sit spots, we will invite citizen scientists to sit down, listen, observe and record

their experiences in writing, drawings and photographs to stimulate awareness of their

environment. This will be complemented with audio measurements to be used in the Hidden

Sound Series, a sequence of experiments focusing on the soundscape ecology of the

environment which we do not consciously perceive by our ears.

At each observation station and sit spot, detailed instructions, equipment and a place for data

storage, e.g. logbooks inside postboxes, will be provided.

Friederike Gehrmann - Plant Ecology Germany)

Yongmei Gong - Glaciology (China)

Mari Keski-Korsu - Artist (Finland)

Joost Van Duppen - Soundscape ecology (Belgium)

Samantha Saville - Sociology (UK)