Anticipating and managing future trade-offs and complementarities between ecosystem services

Mark S. Reed, Klaus Hubacek, Aletta Bonn, Tim P. Burt, Joseph Holden, Lindsay C. Stringer, Nesha Beharry-Borg, Sarah Buckmaster, Dan Chapman, Pippa J. Chapman, Gareth D. Clay, Stephen J. Cornell, Andrew J. Dougill, Anna C. Evely, Evan D.G. Fraser, Nanlin Jin, Brian J. Irvine, Mike J. Kirkby, William E. Kunin, Christina PrellClaire H. Quinn, Bill Slee, Sigrid Stagl, Mette Termansen, Simon Thorp, Fred Worrall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


This paper shows how, with the aid of computer models developed in close collaboration with decision makers and other stakeholders, it is possible to quantify and map how policy decisions are likely to affect multiple ecosystem services in future. In this way, potential trade-offs and complementarities between different ecosystem services can be identified, so that policies can be designed to avoid the worst trade-offs, and where possible, enhance multiple services. The paper brings together evidence from across the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme's Sustainable Uplands project for the first time, with previously unpublished model outputs relating to runoff, agricultural suitability, biomass, heather cover, age, and utility for Red Grouse (Lagopus scotica), grass cover, and accompanying scenario narratives and video. Two contrasting scenarios, based on policies to extensify or intensify land management up to 2030, were developed through a combination of interviews and discussions during site visits with stakeholders, literature review, conceptual modeling, and process-based computer models, using the Dark Peak of the Peak District National Park in the UK as a case study. Where extensification leads to a significant reduction in managed burning and grazing or land abandonment, changes in vegetation type and structure could compromise a range of species that are important for conservation, while compromising provisioning services, amenity value, and increasing wildfire risk. However, where extensification leads to the restoration of peatlands damaged by former intensive management, there would be an increase in carbon sequestration and storage, with a number of cobenefits, which could counter the loss of habitats and species elsewhere in the landscape. In the second scenario, land use and management was significantly intensified to boost UK self-sufficiency in food. This would benefit certain provisioning services but would have negative consequences for carbon storage and water quality and would lead to a reduction in the abundance of certain species of conservation concern. The paper emphasizes the need for spatially explicit models that can track how ecosystem services might change over time, in response to policy or environmental drivers, and in response to the changing demands and preferences of society, which are far harder to anticipate. By developing such models in close collaboration with decision makers and other stakeholders, it is possible to depict scenarios of real concern to those who need to use the research findings. By engaging these collaborators with the research findings through film, it was possible to discuss adaptive options to minimize trade-offs and enhance the provision of multiple ecosystem services under the very different future conditions depicted by each scenario. By preparing for as wide a range of futures as possible in this way, it may be possible for decision makers to act rapidly and effectively to protect and enhance the provision of ecosystem services in the face of unpredictable future change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Blanket bog
  • Ecosystem services
  • Heath
  • Moorland
  • Mountain
  • Payments for ecosystem services
  • Peak district national park
  • Upland


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