Focusing Conservation Efforts on Ecosystem Service Supply May Increase Vulnerability of Socio-Ecological Systems
Growing concern about the loss of ecosystem services (ES) promotes their spatial representation as a key tool for the internalization of the ES framework into land use policies. Paradoxically, mapping approaches meant to inform policy decisions focus on the magnitude and spatial distribution of the biophysical supply of ES, largely ignoring the social mechanisms by which these services influence human wellbeing. If social mechanisms affecting ES demand, enhancing it or reducing it, are taken more into account, then policies are more effective. By developing and applying a new mapping routine to two distinct socio-ecological systems, we show a strong spatial uncoupling between ES supply and socio-ecological vulnerability to the loss of ES, under scenarios of land use and cover change. Public policies based on ES supply might not only fail at detecting priority conservation areas for the wellbeing of human societies, but may also increase their vulnerability by neglecting areas of currently low, but highly valued ES supply.