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Transitions in Ecosystem Service Values

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Hicks
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

‘Ecosystem services’ are defined as the benefits people gain from nature, thus connecting human wellbeing and functioning ecosystems (MA 2003). Ecosystem service concepts originated in an effort to raise support for conservation; but now, permeate environment and development policies, practices, and new approaches to financing. A common reflex within ecosystem service approaches is to make explicit those values which have until now remained implicit (e.g. habitat provision or cultural heritage).This approach is predicated on the idea that if people, policies, and financial mechanisms can recognise the full value of an ecosystem, then more sustainable behaviour will ensue. However, this assumes a ‘true’ value exists and lies within an ecosystem, rather than multiple values being continually constructed through the interactions individuals, institutions, and societies have with nature. Thus, the very process of identifying and measuring values potentially alters the interactions people have with nature, and redefines, in sometimes unexpected ways (e.g. commodifying nature), what is and is not of value.

This PhD project will seek to determine whether, and how, the ecosystem services concept has re-shaped values within particular local and policy settings (e.g. those concerning the environment or development). In doing so this PhD will evaluate national and international policy documents; and, through comparative case study analysis examine community perceptions of ecosystem services (ES): before, during, and after an ecosystem service assessment has been conducted. It will specifically: 1) Identify communities of practice (e.g. conservation NGO’s or government agencies) based on the specific ES interpretations used (e.g. ES as ecological services, direct benefits, or natures gifts) and the normative goals for which they utilize an ES framing (e.g. for conservation or development); 2) Identify shifts, at a community or individual scale, in how nature is perceived to be of value (e.g. as a source of income or a source of identity); 3) Determine the extent to which these shifts are mediated by emerging rhetoric, policy, or direct intervention and 4) Evaluate the methodological use of comparative case study analysis.

Further Information:

Academic Requirements: First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree, or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.

Deadline for applications: 14 February 2016

Provisional Interview Date: [tbc] Week Beginning 29 February 2016

Start Date: October 2016

Application process: Please upload a completed application form (download from outlining your background and suitability for this project and a CV at LEC Postgraduate Research Applications,

You also require two references, please send the reference form (download from to your two referees and ask them to email it to Andy Harrod ([Email Address Removed]), Postgraduate Research (PGR) Co-ordinator, Lancaster Environment Centre by the deadline.

Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.

Funding Notes

Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£14,057 2015/16 [tax free])) for UK/EU students for 3.5 years or full studentships (International tuition fees and stipend (£14,057 2015/16 [tax free])) for International students for 3 years.


1. Hicks, C. C., & Cinner, J. E. (2014). Social, institutional, and knowledge mechanisms mediate diverse ecosystem service benefits from coral reefs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(50), 17791-17796.
2. Pascual, U., Phelps, J et al., (2014). Social equity matters in payments for ecosystem services. BioScience, biu146.
3. Turnhout, E., Waterton, C., Neves, K., & Buizer, M. (2013). Rethinking biodiversity: from goods and services to “living with”. Conservation Letters, 6(3), 154-161.
4. Fisher, J. A., & Brown, K. (2014). Ecosystem services concepts and approaches in conservation: Just a rhetorical tool? Ecological Economics, 108, 257-265.
5. Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. Yale University Press.
6. Millennium Ecosystem Services Assessment (2003) Island Press

How good is research at Lancaster University in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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