Welcome to Francis Academic Press

The Frontiers of Society, Science and Technology, 2023, 5(6); doi: 10.25236/FSST.2023.050610.

Value Pluralism in Practice: Integrating IPBES to Refine Ecosystem Services Assessments in South Africa


Shitianyue Zhao

Corresponding Author:
Shitianyue Zhao

Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK


As global biodiversity loss continues to increase, effective valuation of natural capital is a prerequisite for effective environmental planning decisions. The introduction of Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in 2005 brought the concept of ecosystem services into the limelight. After that, The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) mirrors the MA's original use of the term ecosystem services and goes further by openly embracing concepts from multiple worldviews on human-nature relationships and knowledge systems. The emergence of the latter promises to provide new and improved suggestions for existing assessment methods in many countries around the world. One such example is Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) in South Africa. By summarizing the current assessment methodology of the NCA in South Africa, this paper summarizes the current limitations of the NCA and suggests that the integration of the IPBES method into the NCA can effectively solve the above problems. The paper also analyses the first national form of IPBES organization, the Brazilian BPBES, to illustrate the need to tailor IPBES selectively to the specific problems of the country to achieve the best results. This paper is an attempt to optimize the methodology of the South African national-level ecosystem services assessment and an exploration of the application of IPBES, a conceptual framework linking nature and people.


IPBES; Ecosystem Services Assessments; Environmental Assessments; Value Pluralism; South Africa

Cite This Paper

Shitianyue Zhao. Value Pluralism in Practice: Integrating IPBES to Refine Ecosystem Services Assessments in South Africa. The Frontiers of Society, Science and Technology (2023) Vol. 5, Issue 6: 65-71. https://doi.org/10.25236/FSST.2023.050610.


[1] Summers, J., Smith, L., Case, J. and Linthurst, R. (2012) A Review of the Elements of Human Well-Being with an Emphasis on the Contribution of Ecosystem Services. AMBIO, 41(4), pp. 327-340. 

[2] UNEP - UN Environment Programme. 2019. Living in Peace with Nature. [online] Available at: <https://www. unep. org/zh-hans/resources/making-peace-nature> [Accessed 31 May 2022]. 

[3] Abd Elbasit, M., Knight, J., Liu, G., Abu-Zreig, M. and Hasaan, R. (2021) Valuation of Ecosystem Services in South Africa, 2001–2019. Sustainability, 13(20), p. 11262. 

[4] Tully, K., Sullivan, C., Weil, R. and Sanchez, P. (2015) The State of Soil Degradation in Sub- Saharan Africa: Baselines, Trajectories, and Solutions. Sustainability, 7(6), pp. 6523-6552. 

[5] Matarira, D., Mutanga, O. and Dube, T. (2020) Landscape Scale land degradation mapping in the semi-arid areas of the Save catchment, Zimbabwe. South African Geographical Journal, 103(2), pp. 183-203. 

[6] Díaz S, Demissew S, Carabias J, Joly C, Lonsdale M, Ash N, Larigauderie A, Adhikari JR, Arico S et al. (2015) The IPBES Conceptual Framework—connecting nature and people. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 14, pp. 1–16. 

[7] Beck S, Borie M, Chilvers J, Esguerra A, Heubach K, Hulme M, Lidskog R, Lövbrand E, Marquard E, Miller C, Nadim T, Nesshoever C, Settele J, Turnhout E, Vasileiadou E, Goerg C (2014)Towards a reflexive turn in the governance of global environmental expertise: the cases of the IPCC and the IPBES. Gaia Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, 23, pp. 80– 87. 

[8] Naeem, S. (2009) Biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and human wellbeing. New York: Oxford University Press. 

[9] SANBI. (2022) Ecosystem Services - SANBI. [online] Available at <https: // www. sanbi. org/ ecosystem -services/> [Accessed 31 May 2022]. 

[10] Atkinson, G. (2018). Cost Benefit Analysis and the Environment. Paris: OECD Publishing. 

[11] Akpa-Inyang, F. and Chima, S. (2021) South African traditional values and beliefs regarding informed consent and limitations of the principle of respect for autonomy in African communities: a cross-cultural qualitative study. BMC Medical Ethics, 22(1). 

[12] Sagoff, M. (2011) The quantification and valuation of ecosystem services. Ecological Economics, 70(3), pp. 497-502. 

[13] Martín-López, B., Gómez-Baggethun, E., García-Llorente, M. and Montes, C. (2014) Trade- offs across value-domains in ecosystem services assessment. Ecological Indicators, 37, pp. 220-228. 

[14] Kallis, G., Gómez-Baggethun, E. and Zografos, C. (2013) To value or not to value? That is not the question. Ecological Economics, 94, pp. 97-105. 

[15] Gluckman, M (1971) Analysis of a social situation in modern Zululand. Manchester: Manchester University Press. pp. 67. 

[16] Livernois, J. (2011) The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: ecological and economic foundations, edited by Pushpam Kumar. London: Earthscan, 2010, 400pp. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 4(2), p. 130. 

[17] Wegner, G. and Pascual, U. (2011). Cost-benefit analysis in the context of ecosystem services for human well-being: A multidisciplinary critique. Global Environmental Change, 21(2), pp. 492-504. 

[18] Favretto, N., Luedeling, E., Stringer, L. and Dougill, A. (2016). Valuing Ecosystem Services in Semi‐arid Rangelands through Stochastic Simulation. Land Degradation &amp; Development, 28(1), pp. 65-73. 

[19] O’Farrell, P., De Lange, W., Le Maitre, D., Reyers, B., Blignaut, J., Milton, S., Atkinson, D., Egoh, B., Maherry, A., Colvin, C. and Cowling, R. (2011) The possibilities and pitfalls presented by a pragmatic approach to ecosystem service valuation in an arid biodiversity hotspot. Journal of Arid Environments, 75(6), pp. 612-623. 

[20] Schild, J., Vermaat, J., de Groot, R., Quatrini, S. and van Bodegom, P (201)8) A global meta- analysis on the monetary valuation of dryland ecosystem services: The role of socio-economic, environmental and methodological indicators. Ecosystem Services, 32, pp. 78-89. 

[21] Dhanya, B., Sathish, B., Viswanath, S. and Purushothaman, S. (2014) Ecosystem services of native trees: experiences from two traditional agroforestry systems in Karnataka, Southern India. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services &amp; Management, 10(2), pp. 101-111. 

[22] Smiraglia, D., Ceccarelli, T., Bajocco, S., Salvati, L. and Perini, L. (2016) Linking trajectories of land change, land degradation processes and ecosystem services. Environmental Research, 147, pp. 590-600. 

[23] Perrings, C., Duraiappah, A., Larigauderie, A. and Mooney, H. (2011) The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Science-Policy Interface. Science, 331(6021), pp. 1139-1140. 

[24] Stokland, H., Stenseke, M. and Emery, M. (2022) A network to enhance the contributions from the social sciences and humanities to IPBES. Ecosystems and People, 18(1), pp. 95-98. 

[25] Lubchenco, J. (1995) The Role of Intelligence in Formulating Strategy. Journal of Business Strategy, 13(5), pp. 54-60. 

[26] Joly, C. (2014) The conceptual framework of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services/IPBES. Biota Neotropica, 14(1). 

[27] Sandifer, P., Sutton-Grier, A. and Ward, B. (2015) Exploring connections among nature, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human health and well-being: Opportunities to enhance health and biodiversity conservation. Ecosystem Services, 12, pp. 1-15. 

[28] Pascual, U. (2017) https://doi. org/10. 1016/j. cosust. 2016. 12. 006. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 26-27, pp. 7-16. 

[29] Scarano, F. R. et al. (2019) Increasing effectiveness of the science-policy interface in the socioecological arena in Brazil. Biological Conservation, 240, p. 108227. 

[30] Howarth, C. and Painter, J. (2016) Exploring the science–policy interface on climate change: The role of the IPCC in informing local decision-making in the UK, Palgrave Communications, 2(1). 

[31] BPBES (2019) 1st Brazilian Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Summary for Policy Makers. Carlos A. Joly; Fabio R. Scarano; Mercedes Bustamante; Tatiana M. Gadda; Jean Paul Metzger; Cristiana S. Seixas; Jean-Pierre Ometto; Aliny P. F. Pires; Andrea L. Boesing; Francisco Diogo Rocha Sousa; José Maurício Quintão; Leandra Gonçalves; Maíra C. G. Padgurschi; Michely F. S. de Aquino; Paula D. de Castro, Isabela de L. Santos. Available at: www. bpbes. net. br/ en/ produto/ diagnostico-brasileiro-sobre-biodiversidade-e-servicos-ecossistemicos/

[32] Turnhout E, Bloomfield B, Hulme M, Vogel J, Wynne B (2012) Conservation policy: listen to the voices of experience. Nature, 488, pp. 454–455. 

[33] Van Asselt Marjolein, B. and Rijkens-Klomp, N. (2002 A look in the mirror: reflection on participation in Integrated Assessment from a methodological perspective. Global Environmental Change, 12(3), pp. 167-184. 

[34] Scholes, R., Reyers, B., Biggs, R., Spierenburg, M. and Duriappah, A. (2013)Multi-scale and cross-scale assessments of social–ecological systems and their ecosystem services. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 5(1), pp. 16-25.