A review of studies on ecosystem services in Africa
Wangai, Peter Waweru
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Assessments of ecosystem services (ES) are vital for Africa’s sustainability. ES supply and demand take place in distinctive patterns in Africa due to the continent’s characteristic spatial heterogeneity, rich biodiversity, demographic developments, resource endowment, resource management conflicts, and fragile political landscapes, along with current industrialization and urbanization processes. Ignorance of the dynamism of these parameters could diminish the capacity of the different ecosystem service providing units (SPU) to satisfy the demands in the ecosystem service benefiting areas (SBA) in Africa. The main aim of this review article is to assess the extent to which ES studies have been conducted and applied in Africa. This review analyzes those articles accessible online via the ISI Web of Science and open access journals. The online search yielded 52 ES-related studies, which were used for the review. Results indicate that most studies were conducted in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, and focused on services provided by watersheds and catchment ecosystems. Crucially, most of the studies focused on more than one ES category. Provisioning ES dominated across all the ES categories. However, ES tradeoffs and synergies were barely addressed. Economic valuation of ES and ES mapping comprised more than three-quarters of all the studies, and a quarter referred to biophysical quantification or qualification of ES. There are emerging alternative, non-monetary valuation methods for ES, which could pave a new way of capturing value of non-monetized ES in Africa. Moreover, there is an urgent need to extend ES studies to the entire continent, in order to capture spatial and socio-economic uniqueness of various countries and focus more on local-scale assessments of multiple ES, as a means for addressing ES tradeoffs, synergies and SPU-SBA relations in Africa.