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Resource typeDissertation
Title(s)Disaggregated analysis of ecosystem services in southwestern Ethiopia
CreatorBrück, Maria  0000-0001-8656-8972 (Social-ecological Systems Institute (SESI), Leuphana Universität Lüneburg  02w2y2t16)
RefereeAbson, David J.
Martín-López, Berta
Dorresteijn, Ine
AdvisorAbson, David J.
AbstractEcosystem services (ES) are the benefits that humans obtain from their interactions with ecological structures and functions. The ES concept is closely linked with sustainability, however, recently, studies within the ES literature increasingly consider potentially unsustainable uses of natural resources. To align ES research and decision-making with the overarching normative goal of sustainability, equity considerations should be put central in ES assessments, given that achieving inter- and intragenerational equity within ecological limits is the core goal of sustainability. Yet, the integration of distributional, recognitional and procedural equity issues in ES research and decision-making remains a challenge. Analyzing ES in a disaggregated way can be a tool to meet this challenge. Disaggregation of ES can be understood as the assessment of ES by a particular theme, such as who benefits, in which ways, where, and when. This dissertation proposes to disaggregate ES along the four dimensions beneficiary groups, value types, space, and time, which are dimensions that are important for progress in ES research and decision-making, but remain under-researched. Three critical gaps with regard to ES disaggregation can be identified in the ES literature: (1) a systematic approach to disaggregating ES provision and appropriation is lacking, (2) empirical, disaggregated ES assessments remain scarce, and (3) research results are not integrated into decision-making due to lack of disaggregated results. To address these three gaps and to highlight the potential contributions of the disaggregation concept to ES research and decision-making, this dissertation addresses the following overarching research question: “How can disaggregated analyses of ES help to better assess and address equity implications of ES provision and appropriation in both research and decision-making?” More specifically, this dissertation formulates three research aims (RAs): (1) to explore theoretical and methodological approaches to ES disaggregation, (2) to empirically examine ES disaggregation along different dimensions in an Ethiopian case study region, and (3) to develop an approach to decision-making that integrates results of ES disaggregation. This dissertation follows a place-based, social-ecological systems research approach using a case study in southwestern Ethiopia. This case study region is particularly suited to study equity implications connected to the provision and appropriation of ES, not only because of local people’s dependency on ES and ongoing rapid social-ecological change, but also because previous research has already highlighted relevant existing equity issues. This dissertation encompasses both conceptual and empirical work. Whereas the conceptual work is based on a review of the existing literature as well as conceptual and methodological considerations, the empirical analyses rely mostly on two sets of data (an expert survey and a questionnaire with local people which were collected in the case study region in 2020 and 2021). In addition, ecological and social data of previous research projects in the case study region are incorporated. Diverse methods are employed to analyze the data, including descriptive statistics, hierarchical cluster analyses, correlation analyses, linear regression models, and chi-square tests of independence. To address the gap of a missing systematic approach to ES disaggregation, new theoretical and methodological approaches to ES disaggregation are explored in this dissertation (RA1). It makes a foundational theoretical contribution, by defining what disaggregation means, introducing and discussing the four disaggregation dimensions that are central to this dissertation, and providing ideas for a systematic approach to disaggregation. Moreover, this dissertation shows that the four disaggregation dimensions beneficiary groups, value types, space, and time can indeed act as a useful lens to highlight distributional, recognitional, and procedural equity issues connected to ES delivery. Moreover, disaggregated analyses encourage the use of alternative methods and approaches, such as selecting ES based on local relevance and not according to pre-defined categories, using a coffee bean exercise as a participatory means to obtain disaggregated data, and using cluster analysis as an approach to reduce complexity. Empirical, disaggregated ES assessments remain scarce in the ES literature. To exemplify how such disaggregated ES assessments can be conducted in practice, this dissertation empirically examines ES disaggregation along different dimensions in an Ethiopian case study region (RA2). The empirical analyses highlight different equity issues by using the four disaggregation dimensions as a lens to the ES delivery process. The foci on flows/appropriation, values/benefits and beneficiary groups contribute to gaps in the ES literature, where the socioeconomic side of the ES delivery process is rarely assessed. Even so, the focus on distributional and recognitional equity in this dissertation mirrors the lack of consideration of procedural equity issues in the ES literature. Despite this drawback, the insights into recognitional equity gained through this dissertation can feed into governance and decision-making processes to improve procedural equity in the case study region. Through the assessment of ES by the four proposed disaggregation dimensions equity-focused, place-based understandings of the social-ecological system of the case study region are generated, with regard to the role of the social-ecological context, and the development of the case study region towards specialization and market integration. To address the gap of lacking integration of ES research results into decision-making, this dissertation sets out to develop an approach to decision-making that integrates results of ES disaggregation (RA3). It explicitly presents a generalized, social-ecological approach to support land use decision-making, with six steps to generate and analyze scenarios of disaggregated, landscape-scale changes in land use and ES provision and appropriation. This dissertation also generates equity-related insights for decision-making in the case study region. Generally speaking, to enhance equitable decision-making in the case study region it is recommendable to apply context-specific management of kebeles (smallest administrative units in Ethiopia), to recognize heterogeneity in people’s relationship with ES across space and between beneficiary groups, and to pay attention to the role of the social-ecological context, especially when it comes to planning for the management of future developments. Following calls for necessary improvements in response to remaining gaps in ES research, especially regarding the integration of equity issues in ES assessments, this dissertation puts forward disaggregation as a tool to better assess and address equity issues in ES research and decision-making. The contributions of this dissertation ultimately help to align ES research and decision-making with equity, as well as with sustainability as an overarching normative goal. The results and insights derived in this dissertation can inspire future research. For example, an encompassing, systematic review of disaggregated studies could derive current foci and gaps in the literature to guide ES research in the future. Approaches and methods of this dissertation, such as using tokens to collect disaggregated data, can be transferred and tested in other case study regions. For the case study region in southwestern Ethiopia, future research could focus on better understanding inter-generational equity issues in terms of (un)sustainable ES flows, monitor the future development of the case study region, e.g. in terms of ES specialization and values, and look into how the results can be best communicated to local people and decision-makers, in order to ensure their uptake in decision-making.
KeywordsEcosystem services; Sustainability; Disaggregation; Ethiopia
Date of defense2023-12-22
Year of publication in PubData2024
Publishing typeFirst publication
Date issued2024-05-13
Creation contextResearch
Granting InstitutionLeuphana Universität Lüneburg
Published byMedien- und Informationszentrum, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
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