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Ecosystem services, well-being benefits and urbanization associations in a Small Island Developing State

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sarah Coulthard



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2021 The Authors. People and Nature published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological SocietyUrbanization is a key driver of social and environmental change world-wide. However, our understanding of its impacts on the multidimensional well-being benefits that people obtain from ecosystems remains limited. We explored how the well-being contributions from land- and seascapes varied with urbanization level in the Solomon Islands, a fast-urbanizing Small Island Developing State. Drawing on the social well-being framework, we compared perceived well-being benefits derived from ecosystem services in paired urban and rural sites. Our analysis of 200 semi-structured interviews revealed complex associations between provisioning, regulating and cultural services and well-being benefits, with all ecosystem services contributing to material, relational and subjective well-being dimensions. Although patterns of associations between ecosystem services and well-being benefits were similar between urban and rural dwellers, urban dwellers reported significantly fewer material, relational and subjective well-being benefits. The most important differences between urban and rural dwellers were in terms of meeting basic material needs (e.g. income and material comfort), feeling connected to nature and feeling happy and satisfied. With urbanization, livelihood activities transition from being subsistence-based to income-generating, which is also associated with increased wealth in urban areas. Similar to the relationship between ecosystem service well-being benefits and urbanization, material wealth was negatively associated with perceptions of well-being benefits. People with less material wealth appeared more reliant on nature for their multidimensional well-being. Our findings demonstrate that the altered human–nature relationships in urban areas are associated with decreases in multidimensional well-being that people derive from nature. Improving access to particular ecosystem services, which make clear contributions to multidimensional well-being, could be a focus for urban planners and environmental management where enhanced human–nature relationships and poverty alleviation are central goals. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lapointe M, Gurney GG, Coulthard S, Cumming GS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: People and Nature

Year: 2021

Volume: 3

Issue: 2

Pages: 391-404

Print publication date: 01/04/2021

Online publication date: 25/01/2021

Acceptance date: 10/12/2020

Date deposited: 19/11/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2575-8314

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10180


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Funder referenceFunder name
James S. McDonnell Foundation