Illustrating the Interaction of Nature and People in Ecosystem Services: The Case of Terroir in Wine

Monday, 15 December 2014
Kimberly A Nicholas, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
The ecosystem services (ES) approach is increasingly used in research and policy, with the Common International Framework on Ecosystem Services (CICES) “cascade” gaining traction as a framework for conceptualizing the production of ecosystem services by the natural environment, and then people consuming these services and obtaining benefits depending on their values. However, uptake of the ES concept on the ground by ecosystem managers, and understanding by everyday citizens, is still limited. One barrier is the challenge of providing tangible, examples of everyday benefits and values that people can readily connect with the biophysical structures and functions that underlie their provision.

Winegrowing offers one promising case to illustrate the linkages all along the chain of production and consumption of ecosystem services. The sensitive winegrape has long been known for its properties of terroir, where the taste of wine reflects the environmental conditions of the place where it is grown, a feature valued by consumers. Here the CICES framework is illustrated with the case of winegrowing, demonstrating that the current linear model of natural production and human consumption of ES needs to be modified for this case because people influence each of the five stages by shaping and responding to their environment, producing a two-way interaction between people and the environment throughout.

For example, while natural drivers such as climate and soils are key to the provision of the service of winegrape yields, landowners modify the biophysical environment through site selection and growers modify plant ecophysiological function through farming practices such as pruning and irrigation in order to influence the final service. Similarly, winemakers’ expertise is needed to transform the service of winegrape yields into the product of wine that can be enjoyed and valued by consumers, whose preferences shape wine styles as well. This case illustrates how incorporating both natural and human factors all along the chain of production and consumption of ecosystem services can better represent the potential services provided, and highlights the need to identify relevant decisionmakers at each stage to better understand and manage ecosystem services under environmental change.