Framing ecosystem services

Published on
February 10, 2015


Opdam, P., Coninx, I., Dewulf, A., Steingröver, E., Vos, C. & Wal, M. van der (2015). Framing ecosystem services: affecting behaviour of actors in collaborative landscape planning? Land Use Policy, 46: 223-231.


The concept of ecosystem services shifts the human–nature relationship from a conservation-oriented into a utility-oriented one. Advocates of the concept assume that it can alter the attitude and behaviour of human actors with respect to nature. The ecosystem services concept has so far received little attention in scientific literature about collaborative landscape planning. Consequently the potential of information about ecosystem services to influence landscape planning processes is unknown. In this paper we address the impact of different storylines about ecosystem services on actor behaviour. In these storylines, we distinguish three frames on ecosystem services: a social–cultural frame (emphasizing social–cultural services), an economic frame (emphasizing production services) and a sustainability frame (highlighting regulation services). We propose a conceptual framework in which we connect the concept of framing to attitudinal, sender–receiver and contextual factors. The framework is illustrated by a spatial planning experiment with academic students and by a case of collaborative landscape planning. The student experiment illustrates how attitudinal factors may intervene in the impact frames on actor behaviour. The case analysis shows how researchers who facilitated collaborative landscape planning used various frames as they attempted to build up the actor network to create collaborative relations in different phases of the planning process. The significance of our paper is that we provide an approach to investigate how information on ecosystem service benefits is processed by multiple actors in collaborative landscape planning processes. Our exploration implies that planners who facilitate a collaborative planning process have to be aware that purposively using ecosystem service frames stimulates engagement of actors with diverging backgrounds.