Shared values of ecosystems

people diggingSummary 

The shared values that people hold for natural environments are important if ecosystems are to be managed for the benefit of all. These shared values are the values we hold in common as communities, cultures and societies. They are not always accounted for in conventional assessments and in decision-making. This research, conducted as part of the United Kingdom National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-on, provides an overview of the methods which can be used to incorporate shared values into decision-making and help decision-makers to take account of the views of those they are likely to affect.

Research objectives 

This project was part of the National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-on research and sought to:

  • characterise the shared values people hold for the natural environment
  • use and develop methods by which they can be better understood and made use of in decision making.

The research involved:

  1. A Rapid Evidence Assessment literature review to identify the main types of shared values
  2. Expert led reviews to explore specific topics related to shared values in more detail, including the use of the term in economic valuation, in deliberation, and in aesthetic and spiritual valuation
  3. Development of a theoretical framework to identify the types and dimensions of shared values
  4. Case studies to show how a range of methods can be used for assessing different types of shared values.

Children playing on tree

 Results so far

  • Values are plural in the sense that they reflect multiple values and often cannot be represented by a single metric
  • Shared values resulting from deliberative, group-based valuation are different from individual values
  • The ethical, moral and justice dimensions of many environmental issues necessitate approaches that allow for the deliberation of shared and plural values
  • Catalyst or conflict points can play a key role in the emergence and articulation of values at a societal or community level that have not previously been outwardly or explicitly articulated
  • A mixed method approach is required to elicit the multiple dimensions of shared values and this should include a deliberative component
  • Deliberative and social learning processes help people to understand the values held by others; they can lead to increased sharing of values and to greater acceptance of the decisions emerging from such processes.

Outputs from the project:


The UK NEA Follow-on projects started in 2011 and reported in 2014. The special issue of Ecosystem Services Journal was published in late 2016. Further work is developing.

Related Resources

Edwards, D. Collins, T. Reiko, G. 2016. An arts-led dialogue to elicit shared, plural and cultural values of ecosystems. Ecosystem Services 21, 319-328.

Irvine, K., O’Brien, L., Ravenscroft, N., Cooper, N., Everard, M., Fazey, I., Reed, M., Kenter, J.O. 2016. Ecosystem services and the idea of shared values. Ecosystem Services 21, 184-193.

Kenter, J.O., Reed, M. S., Irvine, K.N., O'Brien, E., Bryce, R., Christie, M., Cooper, N., Hockley, N., Fazey, I., Orchard-Webb, J., Ravenscroft, N., Raymond, C.M., Tett, P., Watson, V. 2016. Shared values and deliberative valuation: Future directions. Ecosystem Services 21, 358-371.


Liz O’Brien

Funders and partners

The UK NEA Follow-on phase was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), The Welsh Government and three research councils: the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and coordinate with and leverage numerous ongoing research activities throughout the UK.