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The University of Southampton

Research project: Defining equity in the context of ecosystem services

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The goal of the project was to develop a framework for defining equity that can be used in planning or assessing policies and initiatives affecting the management of ecosystem services.                                              This project was completed in 2013.

Figure 1: The equity framework

This project was funded by the UK’s Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme from 2010-13. It brought together collaborators from a number of institutions around the world to address the concern that the growing trend towards paying for ecosystem services (like biodiversity, carbon sequestration or watershed services) may be disadvantaging certain groups. This may arise, for example, when vulnerable groups are not engaged in decision-making about such schemes, which frequently require producers to change their land use, or when benefits and costs of schemes are distributed disproportionately between different stakeholder groups.

A conceptual framework was developed based on literature and specially commissioned reviews of the marketing of different ecosystem services (from timber to water and carbon sequestration). This was tested in four case study projects (in India, Cambodia, Uganda and Bolivia) which were developing ecosystem service markets with local people.

The equity framework (Fig 1) consists of a central core (comprising distributive, procedural and contextual equity) surrounded by layers representing the target or scale of equity, the goal of equity, and the parameter-setting process. By setting out guiding questions, it can form the basis of an inclusive process in which participants at all levels from local to nation states have a say in determining a context-specific definition of equity.

The Equity Framework
The Equity Framework

Associated research themes

Links to other projects:
ASSETS: Attaining sustainable services from ecosystems
P4GES: Can paying for global ecosystem services reduce poverty?

Related research groups


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