A composite human wellbeing index for ecosystem-dependent communities: A case study in the Sundarbans, Bangladesh

Abu S.M.G. Kibria, Robert Costanza, Alexandros Gasparatos, José Soto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Ecosystem-dependent communities (EDCs) rely on ecosystem services for their wellbeing in many ways, but there is a lack of robust metrics to estimate their human wellbeing in a multi-dimensional manner. Existing approaches are not tailored to EDCs, hence failing to adequately reflect their distinct characteristics and strong links to social-ecological systems. We used the domains of human wellbeing determined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (i.e. basic materials, health, freedom, social relation, and security) to develop a novel conceptual framework and a composite index of human wellbeing for EDCs. The actual indicators and variables were determined through an extensive literature review and a participatory method around the Sundarbans forest in Bangladesh. Data obtained from focus group discussions (FGDs), interviewing households as well as experts, were used to estimate the Human Wellbeing Index for EDC (HWI-EDC). The composite index results suggest that the EDCs in the study area had moderate human wellbeing, which was primarily consisted of the freedom and basic materials domains due to the comparatively high priority values allocated by the local communities. The Social relation domain was the least contributor to the composite wellbeing of EDCs, as the widespread poverty forced most of the people to prioritize their livelihoods and basic family needs over social relations. Sensitivity analysis suggests that the HWI-EDC is robust and internally consistent, which demonstrates its promise and potential applicability in other EDCs contexts worldwide. Besides providing a unique lens for understanding human wellbeing and its determinants, it can open up new avenues for holistic research efforts to assess the development projects and policies in regards to achieving positive wellbeing outcomes for EDCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101389
JournalEcosystem Services
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Community resilience
  • Ecosystem services
  • Human wellbeing index
  • Impact assessment
  • Social-ecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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