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To date, ecosystem service provision has largely been estimated from spatial patterns of land cover alone using benefit transfer analysis. While it is increasingly recognised that the distribution of human population affects whether a potential service translates into a realised service, this misses key steps in the process and assumes that everyone accesses ecosystem services in the same way. Here we describe a conceptual approach to ecosystem services in terms of movement and flows. We highlight that ecosystem service flow can be broken down into ‘nature to people’ (the movement of nature towards beneficiaries) and ’people to nature’ (the movement of beneficiaries to nature). The former is relatively well described. Here, we explore the latter by reviewing research on human migration, animal foraging and landscape connectivity. We assess if and how existing theories might be useful in describing how people seek out ecosystem services. We consider some of the ways in which flows of people to nature can be measured. Such measurements may reveal which movement theories best represent how people seek out and access ecosystem services. Overall, our review aims to improve future modelling of ecosystem services by more explicitly considering how people access potential services and therefore realise them.


  • Access, Connectivity, ecosystem service, foraging, migration, Movement, potential, Realised, use
Original languageEnglish
Article number576
Number of pages15
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2021

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