Research on ecosystem services (ES) has largely focused on the ecological functions that produce services or the economic valuation of the benefits provided by ecosystems. Far less research has examined public perceptions of ES, and more so ecosystem disservices (EDS), despite evidence that ecosystem properties and functions can produce beneficial or detrimental outcomes for human well-being. To address this gap, we present a robust approach to measuring beliefs about ecosystem services and disservices. With various means to confirm the validity and reliability of ES and EDS measures, we demonstrate this approach with survey data that captures residents’ perceptions about whether their local neighborhood environment (as the ecosystem of focus) provides certain positive or negative impacts in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. The results highlight patterns in people’s views of: Desirable and undesirable biota; benefits and risks pertaining to heat and stormwater; recreational and aesthetic values; and societal nuisances and problems. Composite survey scales for overall perceptions of services and disservices are presented, in addition to more distinctive dimensions of ES and EDS. To better understand and manage ecosystems for diverse benefits, the specific survey measures and the general methodological approach can be adapted to various ecosystems and contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Ecosystem services and disservices
  • Environmental attitudes
  • Risk perceptions
  • Survey scales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

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