There is growing interest in ecosystem disservices, i.e. the negative effects of ecosystems on humans. The focus on disservices has been controversial because of the lack of clarity on how to disentangle ecosystem services and disservices related to human wellbeing. A perspective that considers both services and disservices is needed to inform objective decision-making. We propose a comprehensive typology of ecosystem disservices, and present a framework for integrating ecosystem services and disservices for human wellbeing linked to ecosystem functioning. Our treatment is underpinned by three key assumptions: (1) ecosystem attributes and functions are value-free; (2) the perception of benefits or nuisances are however dependent on societal context, and preferences and actions by societal actors may trigger, enhance or alleviate benefits or nuisances derived from ecosystems; and (3) the notion of disservices must account for the role of human management in assessments of ecosystem values, i.e. the social and technological measures that identify, protect, promote or restore desirable levels of services, and concurrently minimise, mitigate or adapt to disservices. We illustrate our ideas with examples from plant invasions as a complex social-ecological phenomenon.
Read full paper in Ecosystem Services.