Linking concepts of change and ecosystem services research: A systematic review

Anna-Lena Rau 1 , Manuel W. Bickel 1 , Julius Rathgens 1 , Thilo N. Schroth 1 , Annika Weiser 1 , Stefan Hilser 2 , Shona Jenkins 2 , Gavin McCrory 2 , Nicole Pfefferle 2 , Dennis Roitsch 2 , Sanna Stålhammar 2 , Danna Villada 2 , Christine Wamsler 2 , Torsten Krause 2 ,  and Henrik von Wehrden 3 , 4
  • 1 Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Universitätsallee,, Lüneburg, Germany
  • 2 Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS),, Lund, Sweden
  • 3 Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Universitätsallee,, Lüneburg, Germany
  • 4 Arizona State University,, Tempe, USA


Transformation, transition and regime shift are increasingly applied concepts in the academic literature to describe changes in society and the environment. Ecosystem services represent one framework that includes the implicit aim of supporting transformation towards a more sustainable system. Nevertheless, knowledge and systematic reviews on the use of these concepts within ecosystem services research are so far lacking. Therefore, we present a systematic literature review to analyse the interlinkages between these concepts and ecosystem services. Using a search string we identified 258 papers that we analysed based on 40 review criteria. Our results show that transformation was mentioned most often (197 articles), followed by transition (183 articles) and regime shifts (43 articles). Moreover, there is no consolidation of these concepts. Only 13% of all articles gave definitions for the three concepts. These definitions strongly overlapped in their use. Moreover, most papers described changes that happened in the past (73%). We conclude that research would benefit from being directed towards the future rather than evaluating what has happened in the past. Based on our results, we present: i) clear definitions for the three concepts; and ii) a framework highlighting the interlinkages between the ecosystem services cascade and the concepts of change.

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