Following the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005, the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) research programme was developed to address outstanding research and policy questions concerning how ecosystem services could contribute to sustainable poverty alleviation. Ecosystem functions and processes directly and indirectly underpin people’s health and wellbeing, and are called ecosystem services. Considerations of the many linkages involved have highlighted the overall complexity across scales of both ecosystems and relevant governance systems, interdependencies and complex interactions between people and ecosystems and the significant governance challenges that are implicit in the Sustainable Development Goal framework. Referring back to the original ESPA framework, it is clear that while much work has focused on unpacking the central core of ‘wellbeing’, relatively little dealt with the surrounding ‘ecosystems’ circle. Provisioning services tend to dominate ecosystem decisions, commonly driven by markets that are not accessible to local communities.