Sociocultural valuation of ecosystem services for operational ecosystem management: mapping applications by decision contexts in Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Sociocultural valuation (SCV) of ecosystem services (ES) discloses the principles, importance or preferences expressed by people towards nature. Although ES research has increasingly addressed sociocultural values in past years, little effort has been made to systematically review the components of sociocultural valuation applications for different decision contexts (i.e. awareness raising, accounting, priority setting, litigation and instrument design). In this analysis, we investigate the characteristics of 48 different sociocultural valuation applications—characterised by unique combinations of decision context, methods, data collection formats and participants—across ten European case studies. Our findings show that raising awareness for the sociocultural value of ES by capturing people’s perspective and establishing the status quo, was found the most frequent decision context in case studies, followed by priority setting and instrument development. Accounting and litigation issues were not addressed in any of the applications. We reveal that applications for particular decision contexts are methodologically similar, and that decision contexts determine the choice of methods, data collection formats and participants involved. Therefore, we conclude that understanding the decision context is a critical first step to designing and carrying out fit-for-purpose sociocultural valuation of ES in operational ecosystem management.


  • Ariane Walz
  • Katja Schmidt
  • Ana Ruiz-Frau
  • Kimberly A. Nicholas
  • Adéline Bierry
  • Aster de Vries Lentsch
  • Apostol Dyankov
  • Deirdre Joyce
  • Anja H. Liski
  • Nuria Marbà
  • Ines T. Rosário
  • Samantha S.K. Scholte
External organisations
  • University of Potsdam
  • CSIC Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA)
  • University Grenoble Alpes
  • University of Edinburgh
  • WWF International
  • University College Dublin
  • University of Lisbon
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences


  • Ecosystem services, Local-to-regional scale, Operational use, Sociocultural valuation
Original languageEnglish
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019 Jun 20
Publication categoryResearch