While there is agreement that ecosystem services provide critical life support, local communities can be disengaged from the process of conservation, allocation and decision-making. How do we move from concepts, which are often seen as hand waving by natural resource users and policymakers, to concrete valuation appreciated at the level of the household, community and policy maker? In this special issue, we explore examples from southern Africa where ecosystem services are engaged and identified by users as important and critical to improved livelihoods as well as advancing business outcomes. Two papers focus on how small, disenfranchised communities can be empowered to build a common vision of natural resource priority and identify a voice in the planning process. The second two papers in this issue investigate the role of two functional mammal guilds, bats and mesocarnivores, in reducing crop depredation. The final paper investigates how ecovolunteerism can fulfill conservation and community development gaps that occur when governments and NGO's do not avail themselves to local communities. Together these research papers provide a holistic and synthetic view about the links between humans and ecosystems, help to assess community level capacity for sustainability and stewardship, and define what the metrics of success look like.
Wisely, S. M., Alexander, K., Mahlaba, T., & Cassidy, L. (2018). Linking ecosystem services to livelihoods in southern Africa. Ecosystem Services, 30, 339–341. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.03.008