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Incorporating ecosystem services into ecosystem-based management to deal with complexity: a participative mental model approach

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Integrating ecosystem services into ecosystem-based management (EBM) is currently one of the most relevant challenges for management. For that purpose, it is necessary to depict the relationships established between ecosystems and society considering the delivery, use and governance of ecosystem services. One effective way of doing so involves collaboration between researchers, who scientifically study the system, and managers, who have specific experience and technical knowledge. With this aim, we held two workshops in 2011 in the National Parks of Doñana and Sierra Nevada, Andalusia (Spain), with researchers and managers from the protected areas at different organizational levels: local, regional and national. Taking the participative mental model technique as an inspiration, we developed a tool that was used as a means to allow a holistic analysis of ecosystem services from an interdisciplinary and participative perspective. We found that participatory mental models, help integrating ecosystem services into EBM as it includes stakeholders’ proposals and knowledge. For the implementation of ecosystem services for management, we discuss the necessity of navigating a process that requires considerable changes, not only in using new concepts such as ecosystem services, but also in the management structures that govern the services. This process would require closer interaction between citizens, researchers and managers, and the creation of new participation spaces that include ecosystem service beneficiaries located beyond protected areas.

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The authors wish to thank all participants of the workshops and Javier Cano and Teresa Agudo from Sierra Nevada and Doñana for helping with organization of the workshops. Also to David García del Amo, Marina García-Llorente, Irene Iniesta-Arandia and Cesar López-Santiago from the Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, and to Elvira Guerrero for their continued support. Funding was provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment of Spain (018/2009) and by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project CGL2011-30266).

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Correspondence to Javier Moreno.

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Moreno, J., Palomo, I., Escalera, J. et al. Incorporating ecosystem services into ecosystem-based management to deal with complexity: a participative mental model approach. Landscape Ecol 29, 1407–1421 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-014-0053-8

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  • Mental models
  • Deliberative groups
  • Participative analyses
  • Ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Social–ecological system