No matter who we are or where we live, our well-being depends on the way ecosystems work.
What do we need for a ‘good life’? At one level, the answer to this question will differ for each person. Yet at a deeper level, we all share a common set of fundamental needs that must be met for us to experience wellbeing. Understanding those needs and the crucial contribution of nature’s services in enabling us to meet them is the subject of this report.
The report brings together research on wellbeing and research on ecosystem services, focusing principally on the services that come from indigenous ecosystems in New Zealand. There has been a massive upsurge in research on ecosystem services in the last 20 years, including much detailed research and discussion about how to classify and categorise the types of ecosystem services that contribute to wellbeing, and numerous studies attempting to determine the monetary value of various ecosystem services.
However, the question of how to categorise and understand the types or aspects of wellbeing that ecosystem services may contribute to has not been explored to anywhere near the same extent. This may be a reflection of the fact that much of the impetus for studying ecosystem services has come from ecologists and economists, rather than from social scientists who are more familiar with the rapidly expanding wellbeing literature. To date, much of the work of ecologists has focused on the supply of ecosystem services, while that of economists has focused on the demands for ecosystem services, both marketed and non-marketed. However, there has been little focus on what is driving our demand for ecosystem services—a desire for enhanced wellbeing.