The challenge of embedding an ecosystems approach: patterns of knowledge utilisation in public policy appraisal

John Turnpenny, Duncan Russel, Andy Jordan

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The ‘ecosystem services approach’ (ESA) to policy making has refocused attention on how knowledge is embedded in policy. Appraisal has long been identified as an important venue for embedding, but suffers from well-known difficulties. This paper examines the extent to which an ESA appears in UK policy appraisal documents, and how far implementing an ESA via appraisal may encounter the same difficulties. A clear understanding of this is vital for interrogating claims that improving knowledge necessarily leads to more sustainable ecosystem management. The paper reports on the content of seventy-five national-level policy appraisals undertaken in the United Kingdom between 2008 and 2012. Only some elements of an ESA appear, with even the environment ministry failing to systematically pick up the concept, which is indeed subject to many of the familiar barriers to embedding environmental knowledge in appraisals. Policy initiatives attempting to institutionalise ecosystem values need to be conversant with these barriers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)247-62
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014


  • ecosystem services
  • policy appraisal
  • UK
  • public policy
  • knowledge utilisation

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