Abstract: Ongoing ecosystem alterations underscore the need for ecosystem service assessment to urgently enter policy-making. Participatory methods and a systematic inclusion of stakeholders are crucial yet underdeveloped cornerstones of environmental decision making. This study aims at conducting a transparent and legitimized integrated assessment of ecosystem services that rigorously involves stakeholder knowledge and values in environmental decision making. To this end, participatory multi-criteria decision aid was applied to the case of declining vineyard ecosystems surrounding the National Park of Doñana in south-west Spain. Data was gained by means of a survey (n = 178), interviews (n = 21), and three stakeholder workshops (each with 15–21 participants). We found that stakeholder engagement improved all steps of decision making, including problem structuring, policy evaluation, and operationalization. Our results thereby reinforce two major arguments for adopting participatory methods in integrated ecosystem service assessments: (1) the inclusion of stakeholders and their objectives adds legitimacy to decision making; (2) the integration of stakeholder knowledge provides important information for decision making.
Keywords: Ecosystem services stewardship; Integrated valuation; Multi-criteria evaluation; Doñana; Participatory decision making; Local ecological knowledge