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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

Solution scanning as a key policy tool: identifying management interventions to help maintain and enhance regulating ecosystem services

Sutherland, William J.; Jonsson, Mattias; Schroeder, Martin; Dicks, Lynn V.


The major task of policy makers and practitioners when confronted with a resource management problem is to decide on the potential solution(s) to adopt from a range of available options. However, this process is unlikely to be successful and cost effective without access to an independently verified and comprehensive available list of options. There is currently burgeoning interest in ecosystem services and quantitative assessments of their importance and value. Recognition of the value of ecosystem services to human well-being represents an increasingly important argument for protecting and restoring the natural environment, alongside the moral and ethical justifications for conservation. As well as understanding the benefits of ecosystem services, it is also important to synthesize the practical interventions that are capable of maintaining and/or enhancing these services. Apart from pest regulation, pollination, and global climate regulation, this type of exercise has attracted relatively little attention. Through a systematic consultation exercise, we identify a candidate list of 296 possible interventions across the main regulating services of air quality regulation, climate regulation, water flow regulation, erosion regulation, water purification and waste treatment, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination and natural hazard regulation. The range of interventions differs greatly between habitats and services depending upon the ease of manipulation and the level of research intensity. Some interventions have the potential to deliver benefits across a range of regulating services, especially those that reduce soil loss and maintain forest cover. Synthesis and applications: Solution scanning is important for questioning existing knowledge and identifying the range of options available to researchers and practitioners, as well as serving as the necessary basis for assessing cost effectiveness and guiding implementation strategies. We recommend that it become a routine part of decision making in all environmental policy areas.


Climate regulation; policy making; pollination; regulating services; solution scanning; water regulation

Published in

Ecology and Society
2014, volume: 19, number: 2, article number: 3

Authors' information

Sutherland, William J.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Dicks, Lynn V.
University of Cambridge

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

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