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A research agenda is currently developing around the linkages between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation. It is therefore timely to consider which conceptual frameworks can best support research at this nexus. Our review of frameworks synthesises existing research on poverty/environment linkages that should not be overlooked with the adoption of the topical language of ecosystem services. A total of nine conceptual frameworks were selected on the basis of relevance. These were reviewed and compared to assess their ability to illuminate the provision of ecosystem services, the condition, determinants and dynamics of poverty, and political economy factors that mediate the relationship between poverty and ecosystem services. The paper synthesises the key contributions of each of these frameworks, and the gaps they expose in one another, drawing out lessons that can inform emerging research. Research on poverty alleviation must recognize social differentiation, and be able to distinguish between constraints of access and constraints of aggregate availability of ecosystem services. Different frameworks also highlight important differences between categories of services, their pathways of production, and their contribution to poverty alleviation. Furthermore, we highlight that it is important to acknowledge the limits of ecosystem services for poverty alleviation, given evidence that ecosystem services tend to be more associated with poverty prevention than reduction. We conclude by reflecting on the relative merits of dynamic Social–Ecological Systems frameworks versus more static checklists, and suggest that research on ecosystem services and poverty alleviation would be well served by a new framework distilling insights from the frameworks we review.
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