Trade-off decisions in ecosystem management for poverty alleviation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Marije Schaafsma
  • Felix Eigenbrod
  • Alexandros Gasparatos
  • Nicole Gross-Camp
  • Craig Hutton
  • Kate Schreckenberg
  • Kerry Turner

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Southampton
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Tokyo Metropolitan University
  • University of East Anglia
  • King's College London


The academic literature on trade-offs in ecosystem management has paid relatively little attention to justice and poverty reduction objectives. The aim of this paper is to highlight the multiple dimensions of trade-offs in ecosystem services management for poverty alleviation, and to support decision-makers in planning for the almost inevitable trade-offs arising from environmental interventions. The paper brings together different dimensions or lenses through which to analyse trade-offs in ecosystem management for poverty alleviation in a low-income country context. Following a literature review of trade-off decisions, the paper introduces the Balance Sheets Approach to structure trade-off analysis and appraise decisions. We apply the Balance Sheets Approach to analyse five case studies set in very different social-ecological systems where trade-offs were pertinent and undermined poverty alleviation. We show how the combination of ‘positive’ approaches, often used at strategic level, with ‘value’ approaches which analyse multiple values, multi-scale governance, power and capacity, is necessary to analyse complex trade-offs. Based on the case studies we identify four lessons for future trade-off analysis in the context of ecosystem management for poverty alleviation in low-income settings.


Original languageEnglish
Article number107103
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Economics
Early online date25 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2021


  • Trade-offs, poverty, Ecosystem Services, Pluralism, governance