This paper proposes the idea of “ecosystem disservices” to address criticisms scientists have made of the ecosystem services concept.
Ongoing debate over the ecosystem services (ES) concept highlights a range of contrasting views and misconceptions. Schröter et al. (2014) summarise seven recurring arguments against the ES concept, which broadly relate to ethical concerns, translation across the science—policy interface, and how the concept’s normative aims and optimistic assumptions affect ES as a scientific approach. In particular, recent criticism has focused on how the concept is unable to address ecological complexity due to the limitations of the economic stock–flow model that ES is based on (Norgaard 2010). Acknowledging ecosystem disservices (EDS) (i.e. outcomes of ecosystem functions that negatively affect human communities) has been suggested as a way to account for this ecological complexity (McCauley 2006; Lyytimäki 2015). The impact of EDS on communities (i.e. the ‘cost’ of the action) can be measured financially, or through changes in individual or social well-being. McCauley (2006) and Lyytimäki (2015) list EDS examples like pest damage to crops, or trees removing water from watersheds.