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Including Human Well-Being in Resource Management With Cultural Ecosystem Services

January 11, 2021

In this study, we investigated the complex ways in which human well-being is related to the coastal and marine environment by looking closely at the ways communities impact, rely on, and steward the West Hawai'i region.

We endeavored to understand how people in West Hawaiʻi experience and value cultural ecosystem services (CES) and how those CES influence human well-being.

Ultimately, we sought to understand how resource management can include information about human well-being to support and enhance management practices.

We collected data by conducting in-depth, semi-structured interviews with community members in West Hawai'i. Community collaboration was an essential part of this work to ensure that indicators are relevant, appropriate, and represent local values and beliefs.  

Interviews framed questions in a manner that prompted interviewees to discuss what CES they experience, connect with, benefit from, and value. This research aimed to enhance ecosystem assessments specifically by creating place-based, biocultural indicators of CES. Our literature review and interview data informed the creation of a set of place-based indicators focused on representing CES and human well-being within the West Hawai'i Integrated Ecosystem Assessment program.

In addition to identifying indicators, our study investigated the diverse ways that people discuss CES in relation to human well-being. We observed the frequency that each CES was mentioned during interviews and how they were bundled together rather than discussed separately from one another.

Interviews revealed perspectives on changes in the environment and social system and how those changes related to human well-being. Certain changes were credited with impacting access to and creating barriers to CES. Recreation, a CES discussed in about 80% of all interviews, was notable in how it provided access to a multitude of other CES.

Our results also highlight that human well-being depends not only on abundant ecosystems, but also on the opportunity for reciprocity between people and place. In our discussion, we consider the importance of how interviewees intertwined CES during interview conversations, an important concept called “bundling.” We then discuss how our analysis shaped a robust framework for monitoring CES.

Our framework has three overlapping segments:

-ecological foundation of CES

-community values, beliefs, and perspectives

-creating and conserving access to CES for communities

We conclude that our study has helped in finding ways to better integrate CES and human well-being into resource management. Our study brings clarity to the different ways that CES and human well-being can be better utilized in contemporary resource management.


Ingram RJ, Leong KM, Gove J, Wongbusarakum S. 2020. Including Human Well-Being in Resource Management with Cultural Ecosystem Services. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NOAA-TM-NMFS-PIFSC-112, 95 p.  https://doi.org/10.25923/q8ya-8t22.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 12/09/2021