Modelling feedback processes underpinning management of ecosystem services: The role of participatory systems mapping

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Ecosystem services are dynamically interdependent. When conducting studies on ecosystem services valuation and assessment, the interdependencies and feedback structures underpinning ecosystem functioning should be identified and explicitly considered in management processes, especially when the goal is to pursue a plural and integrative approach that accounts for multiple values. This paper explores the role of a participatory system dynamics modelling approach – participatory systems mapping – as a tool to articulate different value dimensions of ecosystem services. The application of the tool is illustrated with a case study conducted in a protected area in Portugal, wherein inter-organisational stakeholder groups collaborated in the conceptualization of feedback processes characterizing ecosystem services during a group modelling workshop. The outcomes of the participatory workshop were submitted to a post-production process and returned to participants though an individual online survey aiming to validate the changes. Food production, recreation and ecotourism, biodiversity conservation and climate regulation were the ecosystem services explored. Results show that by accommodating the co-creation of causal system maps with stakeholders, the proposed approach fosters sharing of insights on the underlying cause–effect mechanisms and leverage points, supporting the identification of interrelationships between different ecosystem services and the selection of key indicators for management processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-42
Number of pages15
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Collaborative causal models
  • Cross impact matrices
  • Ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem services indicators
  • Participatory systems mapping


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