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Scenarios and models

New scenarios and supporting assessments

The IPBES Methodological Assessment of Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2016) was carried out by over 80 experts from all regions of the world, producing an in-depth analysis of a large body of knowledge, including about 1500 scientific publications. It provides guidance for the use of scenarios and models for experts performing assessments within IPBES, as well as to scientists and other stakeholders and decision makers. Its chapters and their executive summaries were accepted, and its summary for policymakers approved, by the fourth session of the Plenary of IPBES (22-28 February 2016, Kuala Lumpur).

Following the launch of this assessment report, the IPBES expert group on scenarios and models (2016-2019) was established, with a mandate to build on the Methodological Assessment Report on Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2016) by: 

  1. Providing expert advice to relevant expert groups of the Platform, in particular those undertaking assessments, on the use of existing scenarios and models to address current IPBES needs, and
  2. Catalysing the further development of scenarios and models by the broader scientific community for future IPBES assessments.

The goal of this advanced work on scenarios and models is to ensure that scenarios and models serve as tools to help guide decision-making by allowing consideration of multiple values of nature and its contributions to people. An important step for IPBES is to catalyse the development of nature-centred multi-scale scenarios for a sustainable future and to facilitate cross-scale and cross-sectoral coordination to assess and reverse declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES). Existing scenario approaches, especially at global and regional scales, have limitations and gaps that constrain their usefulness for BES.  They often consider biodiversity gains or losses as an endpoint, rather than recognizing the full range of interconnections and their feedbacks between nature and people that are central to the IPBES conceptual framework [1]. Existing scenario approaches are also limited in their ability to incorporate diverse values, norms and policy objectives related to nature conservation, sustainable use and good quality of life [2]. Furthermore, as a result of limited stakeholder involvement, scenarios have often underrepresented the diversity of worldviews and indigenous and local knowledge [3]. To address these issues, the IPBES Scenarios and Models Expert Group initiated the development of a set of multiscale scenarios for nature futures based on positive visions for human relationships with nature. Since 2019, this work has been continued by the IPBES task force on scenarios and models (2019 - present) as part of the IPBES rolling work programme up to 2030. 

The development of positive scenarios on the future of nature and nature’s contributions to people, namely nature futures scenarios, comprises an iterative process shown in Figure 1, including iterative stakeholder consultations throughout the process. Initial work progressed by the expert group covered: 1) the formulation of positive future visions for nature [4]; 2) the development of the Nature Futures Framework to facilitate development of new global BES scenarios [5; 6; 7] as well as a methodological guidance on how to use the Nature Futures Framework [7]; and progress on modelling of BES scenarios using existing scenario frameworks. Current work by the task force is focused on: 3) the development of a first suite of illustrative narratives that describe “what the world looks like” in certain points of the Nature Futures Framework [8]; 4) further development of indicators required to address new BES variables within each Scenario; and, 5) quantification of these storylines within iterative modelling and scenario analysis. Nature futures scenarios thus integrate both qualitative narratives and quantitative model output.

Figure 1: The five main methodological phases used for the development of Nature Future Scenarios. This overall process illustrates how the Nature Futures Framework evolved [6].

Nature Futures scenarios are envisaged to shift traditional ways of forecasting impacts of society on nature to nature-centred visions and pathways that will integrate interlinkages of social-ecological systems across direct and indirect drivers, biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services, and human well-being, incorporating multiple systems of knowledge across scale and sectors [9]. They will explore the impacts of alternative policy and management options in nature conservation and sustainable development, supported by the improved use of scenarios and modelling [10].

Nature Futures Framework: a flexible tool to support the development of scenarios and models of desirable futures for people, nature and Mother Earth

The Nature Futures Framework (NFF) forms the foundation for developing scenarios of positive futures for nature, to help inform assessments of policy options across multiple scales. The NFF places relationships between people and nature at its core. Because people relate to nature in multiple ways, there are a wide variety of desirable nature futures, with different goals and visions which can be synergistic or in conflict with one another. Reflecting the notion of value plurality, the triangular depiction of the NFF is organised around three main perspectives corresponding to specific values, abbreviated as nature for nature (intrinsic), nature for society (instrumental), and nature as culture/one with nature (relational) (Figure 2). However, according to different world views and knowledge system, as depicted on the right-hand side of the figure, human-nature relationships may be perceived in different ways.

Figure 2. The nature futures framework presents three value perspectives of nature in a triangle. In the “nature for nature” perspective, people view nature as having intrinsic value, and value is placed on the diversity of species, habitats, ecosystems and processes that form the natural world, and on nature’s ability to function autonomously. The “nature as culture”/one with nature perspective primarily highlights relational values of nature, where societies, cultures, traditions and faiths are intertwined with nature in shaping diverse biocultural landscapes. The “nature for society” perspective highlights the utilitarian benefits and instrumental values that nature provides to people and societies. The coloured circles associated with each value perspective blend together where they intersect, indicating that they are not mutually exclusive. According to other knowledge systems and world views, as portrayed in the right-hand part of the figure, human-nature relationships may be perceived in different ways. The examples in the right-hand part of the figure come from the IPBES conceptual framework but are not an exhaustive list of knowledge systems and world views. The bands and dots indicate that the right-hand part of the figure and the left-hand part of the figure are intimately related, but in complex ways that cannot be described in a one-to-one relationship [11]. 

For further information on the NFF and its methodological guidance, please click here.

Database of publications on the Nature Futures Framework

A database of publications on the Nature Futures Framework was set up with the aim of providing an indication of the uptake of the Nature Futures Framework by the scientific community to the IPBES Plenary at its 10th session. The literature found through the three search processes was uploaded into a library on, which can be found here.


[1] Seppelt, R., Arndt, C., Beckmann, M., Martin, E.A., & Hertel, T.W. (2020). Deciphering the Biodiversity–Production Mutualism in the Global Food Security Debate. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 35, 11, 1011–20.

[2] IPBES (2016). The methodological assessment report on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services. S. Ferrier, K. N. Ninan, P. Leadley, R. Alkemade, L. A. Acosta, H. R. Akçakaya, L. Brotons, W. W. L. Cheung, V. Christensen, K. A. Harhash, J. Kabubo-Mariara, C. Lundquist, M. Obersteiner, H. M. Pereira, G. Peterson, R. Pichs-Madruga, N. Ravindranath, C. Rondinini and B. A. Wintle (eds.). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn, Germany. 348 pages. 

[3] Obermeister, N. (2019). Local knowledge, global ambitions: IPBES and the advent of multi-scale models and scenarios. Sustainability Science, 14, 843–856.

[4] Lundquist, C. J., Pereira, H., Alkemade, R., den Belder, E., Ribeiro, S. C., Davies, K. K., Greenaway, A., Hauck, J., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S., Kim, H., King, N., Lazarova, T., Pereira, L., Peterson, G. D., Ravera, F., van den Brink, T., Argumedo, A., Arida, C., Armenteras, D., … Lindgren-Steicher, P. (2017). Visions for nature and nature’s contributions to people for the 21st century (NIWA Science and Technology Series, pp. 1–123). (report of the stakeholder workshop held in Auckland)

[5] PBL (2019). Report on the workshop ‘Global Modelling of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague.

[6] Pereira, L. M., Davies, K. K., den Belder, E., Ferrier, S., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S., Kim, H., Kuiper, J. J., Okayasu, S., Palomo, M. G., Pereira, H. M., Peterson, G., Sathyapalan, J., Schoolenberg, M., Alkemade, R., Carvalho Ribeiro, S., Greenaway, A., Hauck, J., King, N., Lazarova, T., . . . Lundquist, C. J. (2020). Developing multiscale and integrative nature–people scenarios using the Nature Futures Framework. People and Nature, 2(4), 1172-1195. 

[7] IPBES (2022) Information on advanced work on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, IPBES/9/INF/16

[8] Durán, A. P., Kuiper, J. J., Aguiar, A. P. D., Cheung, W. W. L., Diaw, M. C., Halouani, G., Hashimoto, S., Gasalla, M. A., Peterson, G. D., Schoolenberg, M. A., Abbasov, R., Acosta, L. A., Armenteras, D., Davila, F., Denboba, M. A., Harrison, P. A., Harhash, K. A., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S., Kim, H., … Pereira, L. M. (2023). Bringing the Nature Futures Framework to life: creating a set of illustrative narratives of nature futures. Sustainability Science. 

[9] Rosa, I. M., Pereira, H. M., Ferrier, S., Alkemade, R., Acosta, L. A., Akcakaya, H. R., ... & Harhash, K. A. (2017). Multiscale scenarios for nature futures. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1(10), 1416-1419. 

[10] Kim, H., Peterson, G. D., Cheung, W. W. L., Ferrier, S., Alkemade, R., Arneth, A., Kuiper, J. J., Okayasu, S., Pereira, L., Acosta, L. A., Chaplin-Kramer, R., Den Belder, E., Eddy, T. D., Johnson, J. A., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S., Kok, M. T. J., Leadley, P., Leclère, D., Lundquist, C. J., … Pereira, H. M. (2023). Towards a better future for biodiversity and people: Modelling Nature Futures. Global Environmental Change, 82, 102681. 

[11] IPBES (2022) Decision IPBES-9/1: Implementation of the rolling work programme of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services up to 2030.