OBJECTIVES : (1) To evaluate how ecosystem services may be utilized to either reinforce or
fracture the planning and development practices that emerged from segregation and economic
exclusion; (2) To survey the current state of ecosystem service assessments and
synthesize a growing number of recommendations from the literature for renovating ecosystem
METHODS : Utilizing current maps of ecosystem service distribution in Bushbuckridge Local
Municipality, South Africa, we considered how a democratized process of assessing ecosystem
services will produce a more nuanced representation of diverse values in society and
capture heterogeneity in ecosystem structure and function.
RESULTS : We propose interventions for assessing ecosystem services that are inclusive of a
broad range of stakeholders’ values and result in actual quantification of social and ecological
processes. We demonstrate how to operationalize a pluralistic framework for ecosystem
CONCLUSION : A democratized approach to ecosystem service assessments is a reimagined
path to rescuing a poorly implemented concept and designing and managing future socialecological
systems that benefit people and support ecosystem integrity. It is the responsibility
of scientists who do ecosystem services research to embrace more complex, pluralistic
frameworks so that sound and inclusive scientific information is utilized in decision-making.