Operationalising ecosystem services: advancing knowledge on natural and cultural capital
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contact with nature induces many different feelings, both positive and negative. on the negative side, people can suffer from allergies from flowering plants, many insect species can cause physical harm or spread disease (lyytimäki and sipilä, 2009) and some parks in cities can hide social dangers (Bixler and Floyd, 1997). alternatively, when people are asked to close their eyes and think of something positive, they often see meadows and oceans, trees and dolphins. connections between forests and timber production, as well as fish populations and food security, are widely understood. However, few people know, for example, that having close contact with the natural environment raises your immunological tolerance against inflammatory diseases such as allergies and cancer (Hanski et al., 2012). in wider society, the links between the structures and processes of nature, and between natural capital and the ecosystem services essential for human well-being, are often poorly understood. the structures and processes linked with natural capital can be explained in many ways. in our work, ecosystem services and their operationalisation are the bridge from natural capital to human well-being. We base our conclusions on research carried out in the Eu-funded opennEss project (1), and suggest a five-step path for better understanding of how natural capital and the ecosystem services that flow from it are important to human well-being. Finally, we emphasise the role of natural capital in finding innovative solutions to environmental problems and societal challenges in the form of nature-based solutions (nBs), which build on, and contribute to, the transition towards a bio- and circular economy. understanding natural capital and ecosystem services provides the basis for thriving cultural capital in its broad meaning, by strengthening society’s ability to make wise decisions concerning our relationship with natural capital.