Understanding how access shapes the transformation of ecosystem services to human well-being with an example from Costa Rica

Marta Berbés-Blázquez, Martin J. Bunch, Peter R. Mulvihill, Garry D. Peterson, Berna van Wendel de Joode

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Increasingly, ecosystem services have been applied to guide poverty alleviation and sustainable development in resource-dependent communities. Yet, questions of access, which are paramount in determining benefits from the production of ecosystem services, remain theoretically underdeveloped. That is, ecosystem assessments typically have paid little attention to identifying real or hypothetical beneficiaries and the mechanisms by which benefits may be realized. This limits their ability to guide policy and interventions at the local scale. Through a qualitative mixed methods approach, this article analyzes how access to different aspects of the production of provisioning services is negotiated in Bribri communities (Costa Rica) of small-scale plantain farmers with alternative modes of agricultural production. The analysis considers access to land, labour, knowledge, tools, markets, and credit. Our analysis reveals how institutions of access are organized differently in traditional vs. conventional systems of agriculture and how these shape power dynamics and pathways to well-being. We conclude that understanding institutions regulating access to ecosystem services provides more useful insights for poverty alleviation than approaches that assume homogeneous access to benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-327
Number of pages8
JournalEcosystem Services
StatePublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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