Synthesis & evaluation

Research Phase 4: 2018-2019

This phase involves the synthesis of findings from the analysis completed during the first three phases. This will allow us to understand engagement with ecosystem services in the international and domestic policy realms, dealing with arguments and policy initiatives. This will permit us to complete our exercise in advanced theorization of the relationship between conceptual innovation and institutional change. Combining our findings with theories of reflexive governance and constructivist institutionalism will allow us to advance existing theoretical knowledge about this relationship in a robust and empirically-grounded way. Of particular interest is the way novel concepts are taken up by policy bodies, and adjusted on the basis of experience, evidence, and critique.

This research phase will also allow us to offer a grounded assessment of the significance of the idea of ‘ecosystem services’ for contemporary environmental governance. In particular, we will offer an assessment of: (a) the extent to which ideas of ecosystem services have actually been taken up within the environmental policy sphere; (b) the degree to which the application of these ideas has made a difference in the design of policy and the delivery of programs; (c) the degree to which historical experiences (successes and failures) have informed the design of contemporary initiatives that place a value on ecosystem services; (d) whether there are particular understandings of ecosystem services and configurations of associated policy mechanisms that are more successfully translated into the policy system; (e) whether there is any disjuncture across levels of policy and practice in terms of how the concept is understood and operationalized; (f) whether there are particular contextual factors that are more or less favorable to the application of ecosystem services approaches and associated policy instruments; (g) whether the concept necessarily reflects the financialization of environmental issues, and, if so, what the implications of this are; and (h) whether there are adjustments that are likely to enhance the potential of ecosystem services approaches to contribute to legitimate and effective environmental governance.