So You Want Your Research to Be Relevant? Building the Bridge between Ecosystem Services Research and Practice

Author(s): Lydia Olander, Stephen Polasky, James S. Kagan, Robert J. Johnston, Lisa Wainger, David Saah, Lynn Maguire, James Boyd, and David Yoskowitz

Published: July 2017

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Publication Type: Journal Article

There is growing demand for information regarding the impacts of decisions on ecosystem services and human benefits. Despite the large and growing quantity of published ecosystem services research, there remains a substantial gap between this research and the information required to support decisions. Research often provides models and tools that do not fully link social and ecological systems; that are too complex, specialized, and costly to use; and that are targeted to outcomes that differ from those needed by decision makers. Decision makers require cost-effective, straightforward, transferable, scalable, meaningful, and defensible methods that can be readily understood. This article in the journal Ecosystem Services provides illustrative examples of the gaps between research and practice and describes how researchers can make their work relevant to decision makers by using benefit relevant indicators (BRIs) and by choosing models appropriate for particular decision contexts. These examples are primarily drawn from the United States, and they include cases that illustrate varying degrees of success in closing these gaps. The article includes a discussion of the challenges and opportunities researchers face in adapting their work to meet the needs of practitioners.