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From Food to Pest: Conversion Factors Determine Switches Between Ecosystem Services and Disservices

Laura Vang Rasmussen, Andreas E. Christensen, Finn Danielsen, Neil Dawson, Adrian Martin, Ole Mertz, Thomas Sikor, Sithong Thongmanivong, Pheang Xaydongvanh “From food to pest: Conversion factors determine switches between ecosystem services and disservices” Ambio, 2016. Web.


Ecosystem research focuses on goods and services, thereby ascribing beneficial values to the ecosystems. Depending on the context, however, outputs from ecosystems can be both positive and negative. We examined how provisioning services of wild animals and plants can switch between being services and disservices. We studied agricultural communities in Laos to illustrate when and why these switches take place. Government restrictions on land use combined with economic and cultural changes have created perceptions of rodents and plants as problem species in some communities. In other communities that are maintaining shifting cultivation practices, the very same taxa were perceived as beneficial. We propose conversion factors that in a given context can determine where an individual taxon is located along a spectrum from ecosystem service to disservice, when, and for whom. We argue that the omission of disservices in ecosystem service accounts may lead governments to direct investments at inappropriate targets.

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