The conceptual framework of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) identifies three elements in the interaction between human societies and the non-human world, these are nature, nature’s contributions to people and quality of life. Within these elements, values arise concerning biodiversity and ecosystem services issues. These elements relate to values in the following ways:


This category refers to the value that nature or natural entities have for themselves. It can include their functional value within a broader ecological state. It can also involve attributing them a moral value, e.g. that species should not be driven to extinction regardless of human interests. The target of value may be: individual organisms such as a particular gorilla or an oak tree; bio-physical assemblages such as a population of polar bears or a river basin; biophysical processes such as evolution or ecological resilience; or biodiversity on a genetic, organismal, species or holistic bases. The orientation of values in this category is non-anthropocentric.

Nature's contributions to people

This category refers to the benefits (in the broadest sense) that people draw from nature or ecosystem functions. These benefits can be realized as physical outputs, such as water or food. They can also include cultural, recreational and/or spiritual interactions that are directly or indirectly influential for human endeavour. One of the conceptualizations of nature’s benefits is ‘ecosystems services’. The orientation of values in this category is anthropocentric, and includes both instrumental and relational values with a normative goal of human well-being.

Quality of life

This category concerns the contribution of nature and ecosystem processes to a good quality of life, or a fulfilled human life. This refers to the way in which different elements of nature and biodiversity & ecosystem services support human well-being. It also includes the principles of living in harmony with nature, and living in balance with Mother Earth. This can involve the development of desirable communities and societies, for example the way landscape conservation can contribute to a sense of place and community. The orientation of values in this category is anthropocentric and relational.

As recognized by the IPBES conceptual framework, nature, nature’s benefits to people and good quality of life are interconnected via institutions (formal and informal) and governance models. Values stem from such institutions. That is, institutions are largely determined by the worldviews or cultural contexts, which prioritise some of the types of values that are held by decision makers and users of biodiversity and ecosystem services at the expense of other types of values and other stakeholders.