From biodiversity to health: quantifying the impact of diverse ecosystems on human well-being.


Ample evidence suggests positive effects of species diversity on ecosystem functioning and services in natural and agricultural landscapes. Less obvious and even contested are the effects of such diversity on human well-being. This state of art partly stems from methodological difficulties to evaluate and quantify these effects and imprecise conceptual frameworks. Here we propose a conceptual framework that links different aspects of diversity, particularly species and genetic richness, to ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and disservices, and different aspects of well-being. We review current approaches for the study of diversity-well-being relationships and identify shortcomings and principle obstacles, mainly stemming from theoretical premises that are too imprecise. We discuss five basic methodological approaches to link diversity to well-being: matrix models, indirect inference, Price partitioning, structural equation modelling, and environmental inference. We call for a stricter terminology with respect to the different aspects of functioning, multifunctionality and well-being and highlight the need to evaluate each step in the different pathways from diversity to well-being. A full understanding of ecological constraints on human well-being requires consideration of trade-offs in diversity effects, of contrasting perceptions of well-being, and of ecosystem disservices. We also call for appropriate long-term socio-ecological research platforms to gather relevant data about ecosystem functioning and well-being across space and time. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

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