Ecosystem services (ES) are increasingly used as the conceptual driver for
conservation and development actions, largely following from the influential Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment. Scholars skeptical of the neoliberal turn in conservation
have critiqued the use of economic values for nature’s services. What has been less well
understood and reviewed, however, is how concepts of ES are enacted by technologies
of calculation, as well as how calculative practices move through networks and among
stakeholders. This review traces how definitions and metrics of ES have evolved and
how they are used, such as in biodiversity offsetting and wetland mitigation programs.
Using the idea of the creation and deployment of calculative mechanisms, this article
discusses how these processes proceed in different ES contexts, assesses what work has
to happen ontologically to make ES commensurable and circulatable, and speculates on
what the opportunities for future pathways other than commodification are.