Developing multiscale and integrative nature–people scenarios using the Nature Futures Framework

The rapid decline in the state of nature and its clear links to the prosperity of human societies has led scientists to argue that transformative change, in the way societies relate to nature is urgent. Achieving such a change requires identifying visions, pathways and plans that can help people navigate away from undesirable futures and towards desirable ones. In this paper published in People and Nature journal, the expert group on scenarios and models of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), including Dr. Carlo Rondinini, address the question of how a new group of scenarios that respond to a diverse set of achievable possibilities can be developed in a way that catalyze the movement towards “desirable futures” for people and the planet. Also, under an emerging agreement that sustainability challenges require new ways of knowledge production and decision-making, the involvement of actors outside academia, that integrate the best available knowledge, reconcile values and preferences, and creates ownership of the problems and solution options is an important aspect of scenarios development.

As part of an iterative and consultation process with stakeholders, the framework was elaborated in five methodological phases that evolved and led to the creation of the Nature Futures Framework (NFF), as shown in the following scheme:

The five main methodological phases used for the development of Nature Future Scenarios, which are described in‐depth in Section 3 of the article. This overall process illustrates how the Nature Futures Framework evolved. (Source: Authors’ own)

To include a broad diversity of stakeholders, a combination of systematic outreach approaches across all continents and levels of governance were included before implementing the methodology. It was composed of two main steps, i) a common language among researchers and stakeholders, and ii) the development of core principles: co-production, interactive iteration and pluralism. Through this process, the objective of the Nature Futures Framework was to create a set of multiscale scenarios of desirable futures for nature, legitimized by the co-production process among different stakeholders and scientists that would ensure a plurality of perspectives on how people and nature relate.

As a result of this extensive consultation process, a heuristic tool that captures positive relationships of humans with nature in the form of a triangle was developed. Different visions of nature came out as equally valid, important and desirable for future human–nature relationship, and within those three value perspectives came out as underpinning elements of all visions:

Nature for Nature, in which nature has value in and of itself, and was an underlying rationale in the development of the NFF in the the preservation of nature’s diversity and functions is of primary importance;

Nature for Society, in which nature is primarily valued for the benefits or uses people derive from it, and which could lead to an optimization of multiple uses of nature and

Nature as Culture, in which humans are perceived as an integral part of nature, and therefore what is valued is the reciprocal character of the people–nature relationship.

The NFF acknowledges that people’s diverse relationships with nature is essential for discussing nature futures and to agree on pathways to achieve such desirable future. It presents itself as a boundary framework for bridging multiple disciplines, including the modeling community, and as a tool to incorporate the complex relations of environmental problems into the creation of multiscale, plural biodiversity scenarios.

The proposed framework wants to enrich and prove its approach through a broader engagement of stakeholders situated in different contexts, including groups such as indigenous peoples, the youth and the private sector. The aim of having diverse case studies is to populate the triangle with examples of how nature values are represented in different locations. The way people relates to nature will be different, for example, between the residents of the city of Singapore, Siberian reindeer herders or communities in the south of France. If the NFF is to be used in case studies to visualize nature futures, there are two ways of doing it: First, by identifying a position within the NFF triangle space that represents the relative emphasis of the three value perspectives. Second, depicted in the figure below, where the desired state of the system is represented by a space connecting three points along each of the triangle’s vertices, indicating how well that particular value perspective is achieved.

Local NFF case studies that engage a variety of actors in different social, geographic and ecological contexts are vital for understanding how global change varies from place to place, the diversity of nature values and how local places connect to global processes. When scaled to the global level, the richness of this bottom‐up information can be combined to showcase a diversity of options of what desirable futures for nature could look like globally, based on different emphasis on the nature value perspectives. The use of the NFF enables an opening up of the value perspective space when describing possible nature futures as compared to the present state. (Source: Authors’ own)

The development of the NFF rests on the assumption that there is a critical need to act now to prevent irreversible environmental devastation. Thus, the expert group on scenarios and models of the IPBES, proposes this framework as a common ground wherein a discussion on reversing the degradation of nature and declines in nature’s contribution to people could [and should] be held between actors as diverse as politicians and climate activists.

Source: Pereira, L. M., Davies, K. K., den Belder, E., Ferrier, S., Karlsson‐Vinkhuyzen, S., Kim, H., … & Peterson, G. (2020). Developing multiscale and integrative nature–people scenarios using the Nature Futures Framework. People and Nature. For more information, follow this link: