Aligning nature protection with human well-being for the UN Sustainable Development Goals implies that conservation monitoring should indicate the sustainability of ecosystem services (ES). Here we test the value of the ES cascade framework using national, multi-decadal data for an iconic freshwater fish, the Atlantic salmon Salmo salar. For the first time, we assemble all long-term monitoring data for England and Wales along the ES cascade for this species from resource to benefit: juvenile density to measure the biological resource, returning adult numbers to measure potential ES use, and rod catches and angling effort as measures of actual ES use. We aimed to understand how the ES cascade framework reconciled conservation with ES sustainability targets.
Only some linkages along the ES cascade could be evidenced: in catchments where juveniles declined, rod catches also generally decreased, but angling effort declined everywhere irrespective of the biological resource trends. We suggest that i) programmes focused on juvenile monitoring provide an early-warning system for ES provision as well as nature conservation, ii) the ES cascade framework can reconcile nature conservation and ES sustainability if monitoring efforts link biological resources fully to the ES, and ES monitoring explicitly relates biological resources to human use.