Where communities intermingle, diversity grows

Nils Droste

On the evolution of ES research

Droste, N., D'Amato, D., Goddard, J.J. (2018) Where communities intermingle, diversity grows - The evolution of topics in ecosystem service research. PLoS ONE 13(9), doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204749


  • a growing body of ES literature
  • concerns about a commodification of ES
  • we wanted to see what is out there


Web of Science Core Collection

We downloaded all “ecosystem service*” literature

Division into periods


The algorithm

Unsupervised machine learning: latent Dirichlet allocation of topic \( z \)

\[ P(w_i|d_k)= \sum_{z=1}^Z P(w_i|z)P(z|d_k) \]

with \( w_i \) words and \( d_k \) documents, drawing \( z \) until model converges.

The inspection

analyzing the resulting topics per period


Content development

we then tracked content over time / across periods

Global awareness

  • \( \rightarrow \) Marine: coral, fish, global, marin, popul, ocean
  • \( \rightarrow \) Valuation: account, costanza, estim, reserv, servic, valu, yuan


A Sankey diagram

Key observations

  1. ES research has a consistent and large natural science base

  2. social ES research is self-reflected and governance oriented