The task of this assignment is to design an ecosystem service assessment for a defined social-ecological system. This will involve careful delineation of a social-ecological system and assessing this context, identifying an ecosystem service or small group of services to evaluate, developing appropriate valuation methods, and demonstrating understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of those methods. It will also involve some analysis of the social and political context and implications of the valuation.

Elements to consider and include in developing the assignment

1.Choosing the site and framing the question

Choose a specific and clearly defined ecosystem that you have some familiarity with, perhaps from nearby where you live. This must be a location-specific ecosystem. For instance, nearby Edinburgh, an example would be the mouth of the River Almond in the Forth river valley, rather than simply mudflats in general. Start to think about the ecosystem service or small group of services that the system delivers and who benefits from these.

2. Choose an assessment framework to work with

You are advised to use an ecosystem assessment framework such as that used by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA, 2011), or Bateman et al (2010), TEEB (De Groot, 2010), one for cultural ecosystem services (NEA Follow on phase, 2014, Work Package 5), or any other that you find more appropriate from the literature. This will help you keep your definitions clear and avoid double-counting. Full references for these frameworks are below.

3. Locating your study in the academic literature

You will need to compare your proposed study to other studies in similar ecosystems. This is linked to the choice of framework. Depending on what ecosystem service(s) you’re working on, a good starting place might be the UK NEA, or some of work done around the world for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report.

4. Ecosystem services from your study site and valuation methods

Next you will need to think about the ecosystem services provided by the system. How many are there? Which are most important? Which do you want to focus upon? Define one ecosystem service or a small grouping of ecosystem services from the site and analyse it in terms of the goods and benefits derived from the service. What sort of values are associated with this ecosystem service (for instance, can they be grouped into use and non-use values to start with)? Think about how you would approach the valuation of this service, and what method or methods would be best to employ to elicit the value of the service. The report should detail the following in terms of the valuation process:

Describe what types of values you seek to elicit and the methods you intend to employ to do so.
Describe what data you would collect to elicit these values and how you would develop an appropriate sampling strategy to do so.
Describe the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen valuation methods and note how these might affect your conclusions.

5. The social and political context of your valuation

You then need to analyse how the ecosystem services are currently governed and how this affects who can benefit from them. Think about how the ecosystem service is currently governed and how this governance structure evolved. Who do the benefits currently accrue to. Might the explicit valuation exercise you propose change this, and if so how, and what equity, legitimacy and governance issues does this raise? Later materials in the course will help you to consider some of the issues relevant to these questions.

6. Written report

You will produce clearly structured written report which includes and addresses the elements outlined above.

References for guidance:
Bateman, I.J. et al., 2010. Economic Analysis for Ecosystem Service Assessments. Environmental and Resource Economics, 48(2), pp.177-218. Available at:

De Groot R, Fisher B, Christie M, Aronson J, Braat L, Gowdy J, et al. (2010) Integrating the ecological and economic dimensions in biodiversity and ecosystem service valuation. In: Kumar P (ed.) The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Ecological and Economic Foundations, London: Earthscan, 9–40.

Fish, R., et al. (2016). “Conceptualising cultural ecosystem services: A novel framework for research and critical engagement.” Ecosystem Services 21, Part B: 208-217.

NEA (2011). Conceptual Framework and Methodology. National Ecosystem Assessment. Chapter 2.

For a discussion of frameworks see section 2.1 of:
Potschin, M.B. & Haines-Young, R.H., 2011. Ecosystem services: Exploring a geographical perspective. Progress in Physical Geography, 35(5), pp.575-594. Available at:

If you are focusing on cultural ecosystem services, you may want to consider a framework developed by: Fish and Church in the NEA Follow on (2014) Work Package Report 5: Cultural ecosystem services and indicators.

Other useful reading
Pagiola, S., von Ritter, K. & Bishop, J., 2004. Assessing the Economic Value of Ecosystem Conservation. THE WORLD BANK ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT, ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT PAPER No.101.

Kareiva, P. et al., 2011. Natural Capital: Theory and Practice of Mapping Ecosystem Services P. M. Kareiva et al., eds, Oxford University Press. Chapters 1 and 2. On Learn and a hard copy is in the library.


Sample Solution

Sample solution

Dante Alighieri played a critical role in the literature world through his poem Divine Comedy that was written in the 14th century. The poem contains Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The Inferno is a description of the nine circles of torment that are found on the earth. It depicts the realms of the people that have gone against the spiritual values and who, instead, have chosen bestial appetite, violence, or fraud and malice. The nine circles of hell are limbo, lust, gluttony, greed and wrath. Others are heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. The purpose of this paper is to examine the Dante’s Inferno in the perspective of its portrayal of God’s image and the justification of hell. 

In this epic poem, God is portrayed as a super being guilty of multiple weaknesses including being egotistic, unjust, and hypocritical. Dante, in this poem, depicts God as being more human than divine by challenging God’s omnipotence. Additionally, the manner in which Dante describes Hell is in full contradiction to the morals of God as written in the Bible. When god arranges Hell to flatter Himself, He commits egotism, a sin that is common among human beings (Cheney, 2016). The weakness is depicted in Limbo and on the Gate of Hell where, for instance, God sends those who do not worship Him to Hell. This implies that failure to worship Him is a sin.

God is also depicted as lacking justice in His actions thus removing the godly image. The injustice is portrayed by the manner in which the sodomites and opportunists are treated. The opportunists are subjected to banner chasing in their lives after death followed by being stung by insects and maggots. They are known to having done neither good nor bad during their lifetimes and, therefore, justice could have demanded that they be granted a neutral punishment having lived a neutral life. The sodomites are also punished unfairly by God when Brunetto Lattini is condemned to hell despite being a good leader (Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). While he commited sodomy, God chooses to ignore all the other good deeds that Brunetto did.

Finally, God is also portrayed as being hypocritical in His actions, a sin that further diminishes His godliness and makes Him more human. A case in point is when God condemns the sin of egotism and goes ahead to commit it repeatedly. Proverbs 29:23 states that “arrogance will bring your downfall, but if you are humble, you will be respected.” When Slattery condemns Dante’s human state as being weak, doubtful, and limited, he is proving God’s hypocrisy because He is also human (Verdicchio, 2015). The actions of God in Hell as portrayed by Dante are inconsistent with the Biblical literature. Both Dante and God are prone to making mistakes, something common among human beings thus making God more human.

To wrap it up, Dante portrays God is more human since He commits the same sins that humans commit: egotism, hypocrisy, and injustice. Hell is justified as being a destination for victims of the mistakes committed by God. The Hell is presented as being a totally different place as compared to what is written about it in the Bible. As a result, reading through the text gives an image of God who is prone to the very mistakes common to humans thus ripping Him off His lofty status of divine and, instead, making Him a mere human. Whether or not Dante did it intentionally is subject to debate but one thing is clear in the poem: the misconstrued notion of God is revealed to future generations.



Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). Dante’s inferno: Seven deadly sins in scientific publishing and how to avoid them. Addiction Science: A Guide for the Perplexed, 267.

Cheney, L. D. G. (2016). Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno: A Comparative Study of Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Stradano, and Federico Zuccaro. Cultural and Religious Studies4(8), 487.

Verdicchio, M. (2015). Irony and Desire in Dante’s” Inferno” 27. Italica, 285-297.