The idea(s) of ‘valuing nature’: insights from the UK’s ecosystem services framework

John R. Turnpenny, Duncan J. Russel

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The variety of ideas about ways nature is ‘valued’ in public policymaking are investigated. A theoretical ideational approach is combined with empirical analysis of the UK’s ecosystem services framework. Several types of ideas are identified, and how they interact is examined: ideas about nature itself; about the role that different research on the value of nature can or should play in decision-making; and about how policy decisions are made. In particular, the ways these ideas appear in academic debates, especially in ecological economics and philosophy, are confronted with how ideas appear in the policy practice of employing a ‘valuing nature’ concept. This reveals political dynamics sometimes missed by both advocates and critics of the concept of ecosystem services, such as the importance of promoting organisations and their agendas and activities, persuading different actors to change positions, and institutional commitments and sunk costs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-993
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number6
Early online date5 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • ecosystem services
  • ideational policy analysis
  • valuing nature

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