Ecosystem service science has gained relevance among scientists, managers, and policy-makers worldwide as a way to communicate societal dependence on ecological life support systems. However, a major barrier to effective implementation of ecosystem services research is their lack of operationalization for land management and planning. This study conducted an in-depth analysis of ecosystem service studies conducted across Spanish arid and semi-arid ecosystems in order to identify achievements as well as to provide insights and failures of the ecosystem services application for decision making. We analyzed relevant studies in terms of ecosystem services studied, value dimensions and methodological approaches used, and their application for land planning and the level of stakeholders' engagement included. We also performed an author consultation to explore the impact of publications on environmental policies. Findings show that most studies were conducted from a socio-cultural dimension and more than 90% of the studies included some of the types of stakeholder engagement. However, the implementation of ecosystem service research findings by decision-makers is very limited, highlighting a management-application gap. We call for promoting transdisciplinary scientific collaboration that includes the scientific, public, and policy-making communities when developing ecosystem service research. Recommendations to foster transdisciplinary include: a) enhancement of continued policy-scientific communication in early phases of research such as co-designing of goals, b) promotion a culture of shared responsibility among multiple stakeholders to launch real action at the administration level for specific environmental problems, and c) train and work more closely with managers and decision-makers to integrate the ES framework into the day-to-day management of natural spaces.
Keywords: Almeria, Ecosystem service review, Science-policy interface, Spain, Trade-offs