Speaker abstracts

Introduction to ecosystem services. Lorraine Maltby, The Sheffield University, UK.

Ecosystems provide us with the essentials for life – food to eat, water to drink, fibre for clothes and shelter, fuel to keep us warm.  However, they do more than that; they play a key role in climate regulation through carbon sequestration, flood prevention through water retention and runoff regulation, and water purification through filtration processes and microbial activity.  They are places where we go to relax, to participate in recreational activities or simply to be inspired by the wonders of the natural world.  Moreover, ecosystems perform essential processes such as nutrient and water cycling and the production of biomass.  These benefits to people are termed ecosystem services and they are provided by all ecosystems.

The growing human population is putting increased pressure on ecosystems and their ability to provide the services we require.  Managing landscapes for the provision of the ecosystem services we require, whist at the same time protecting the biodiversity on which many of these services depend, is a major challenge and one which this Special Science Symposium aims to address.  This presentation will introduce the ecosystem service concept, consider its value as a framework for environmental policy and highlight some of the scientific challenges that have to be met in order to put the concept into practice.

European perspective of ecosystem services and related EU policies. Luca Montanarella, European Commission, IT.

Our economic prosperity and wellbeing depend on our natural capital, including ecosystems that provide us with a flow of essential goods and services – from fertile soil to productive land and seas, from fresh water and clean air to pollination, flood control and climate regulation. Many of these ecosystem services are used almost as if their supply is unlimited. They are treated as "free" commodities, their economic value is not properly accounted for on the market, and therefore they continue to be overly depleted or polluted, threatening our long-term sustainability and resilience to environmental shocks.

60% of the Earth’s ecosystem services have been degraded in the last 50 years. In the EU, more than 1,000 km² are subject to 'land take' every year for housing, industry, roads or recreational purposes. About half of this surface is actually 'sealed'. The availability of infrastructure varies considerably between regions, but in aggregate, every ten years we pave over a surface area equivalent to Cyprus. If we were to reach the state of no net land take by 2050, following a linear path, we would need to reduce land take to an average of 800 km² per year in the period 2000-2020. In many regions soil is irreversibly eroded, or has a low content of organic matter. Soil contamination is also a serious problem.

Ensuring a long-term supply of essential ecosystem goods and services implies we must properly value out natural capital. The use of land is nearly always a trade-off between various social, economic and environmental needs (e.g. housing, transport infrastructure, energy production, agriculture, nature protection). Decisions on land use are long term commitments which are difficult or costly to reverse. At the moment, these decisions are often taken without proper prior analysis of such impacts, for example through a Strategic Environmental Assessment. The EU agricultural, energy, transport and cohesion policy reforms will provide the opportunity to set the framework and the right incentives for public authorities and land owners to achieve this objective.

Business perspective on ecosystem services. Didier Nootens, SGS, BE.

Ecosystem change presents both opportunities and risks to companies (as well as to their suppliers, customers and investors), such as operational (e.g. increased scarcity and cost of raw materials), regulatory and legal (e.g. public policies such as taxes and moratoria on extractive activities), reputational (e.g. relationships and image from media and NGOs), market and product (e.g. consumer preferences) and financial (e.g. availability of capital).

Companies must anticipate that ecosystems will be more consistently incorporated into public policies, regulations, and political decisions. Ecosystem values will also be increasingly considered by the finance sector and business-to-business customers as they assess the biodiversity and ecosystem-related risks and opportunities of investments and supply chains. This presentation will provide an update of latest thinking in leading companies assessing, measuring and valuing their ecosystem impact and dependence.

Mix & max: informed choice of flower mixes to maximize ecosystem services. Felix Wäckers, Biobest, BE

Arthropod predators and parasitoids are crucial in controlling pests, while in many crops pollinators are vital to fruit-set. These ecosystem services secure the production of safe and healthy food. However, many of these beneficials rely on floral resources to survive and reproduce. The lack of flowers in intensified agricultural systems is an important bottleneck for the delivery of natural pest control and pollination.

We seek to introduce selected flowering plants to support those insects delivering ecosystem services. In my presentation I will show that ecosystem services are not optimized by increasing botanical diversity per se, but require selection of the ‘right’ flowering plants. An uninformed choice of non-crop vegetation not only means missing out on potential benefits but may actually generate negative effects, such as increased pest populations.

The selection of floral vegetation to maximise ecosystem services requires an understanding of the biology and ecology of the species delivering these services. Based on our detailed studies, specific floral seed mixtures can be developed which target specific pollinators and/or biocontrol agents. This targeted approach has been demonstrated to be effective in enhancing the targeted beneficial insects and the services they provide.

Here I will discuss the specific floral requirements of different groups of beneficial insects. Results from our largescale landscape management projects in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK will be presented. Finally, it is discussed how we can generate multifunctional landscapes (see also www.ecostac.co.uk).

Ecosystem services in urban areas: provision and conflicts. Dr. Silvia Tobias,Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, CH.

80% of all Europeans live in urban areas. This leads to a high, spatially concentrated demand on ecosystem services (ESS). This contribution starts with the driving forces of urban development and emphases the changes from location specific natural features like fertile soils to purely economic factors like infrastructure according to the changes of society. It then explains the way of ESS provision in urban areas by means of different examples and shows the growing societal demand on additional ESS; particularly cultural ESS. A strong issue are conflicts between modern urban development and ESS provision. Overbuilding and landscape fragmentation strongly reduce the performance of basic ESS. In addition, the overbuilding of favourite residential sites excludes the public from important cultural ESS. The presentation ends up with recommendations for policy and practice that are derived from the findings of two comprehensive research programmes on urban landscapes and quality of life.

Ecosystem services provision in watersheds. Mark Everard, Environment Agency, UK. 

Humanity depends on the natural world for everything from basic biophysical needs through to economic resources and 'quality of life', yet our actions and policies historically have overlooked many of these dependencies.  The net result is that we have systematicaly undermined the very systems and processes underpinning our wellbeing future.  'Ecosystem services' define the many benefits that people derive from the natural world, and equally provide a systemic basis to account for our impacts upon it.  A systemic view of our activities and substance use can provide insight into improved sustainability.

The use of the ecosystem services concept in risk assessment. Valery E. Forbes, School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, USA.

Environmental protection goals are increasingly framed in terms of ecosystem services delivery, with a recognition that these services connect to ecosystem structure and dynamics. However, ecological science has not been delivering the kind of information needed for achieving environmental protection. There is growing interest among ecological scientists and among agencies in managing ecosystem services. For example, the European Food Safety Authority recently used the ecosystem services concept to identify specific protection goals for pesticide risk assessment as the basis for revising Technical Guidance Documents for Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecotoxicology used in connection with EC Regulation No. 1107/2009. Likewise, the US EPA is involved in multiple initiatives related to understanding and quantifying ecosystem services. Using the concept to its fullest potential will require that mechanistic linkages between the entities that are typically measured in risk assessments (i.e., individual organisms) and the providers of ecosystem services (e.g., populations or groups of populations) can be made. It is also essential that robust, quantitative relationships between service providing units and the delivery of ecosystem services can be developed. Finally, methods for simultaneously valuing multiple ecosystem services and understanding the tradeoffs among them are also needed.

Indicators for ecosystem services provided by soils. Jack Faber, Dorothy Stone, Rachel Creamer & Bryan Griffiths.

This paper describes scientific developments that have raised awareness that changes in ecological risk assessment (ERA) methods are necessary. The ecosystem services concept seems to gain a central role in developments of new ERA methods. Under the FP6 integrated project NoMIRACLE a method was developed for use of ecosystem services in ERA. In this method assessment endpoints are derived from structures and processes in the ecosystem that are considered indispensable for the provision of particular ecosystem services. The approach facilitates fine-tuning ERA to specific land use demands, and can therefore be applied in risk management feasibility studies. The approach may be used for assessment of various threats to soil functioning and ES provision, and can also be used for selection of indicators for soil quality and health. In view of the proposed EU Soils Framework Directive there is a need to identify and evaluate indicators for soil biodiversity and ecosystem services. The recently started FP7 EcoFINDERS integrated project will address this issue. We undertook a ‘logical sieve’ approach to reduce a potential list of ca. 200 indicators to a handful of candidates for testing at well characterized field sites. The resulting selection of most favored indicators will be presented. The paper will briefly enumerate indicators

The use of the ecosystem services concept in Life Cycle Assessment. Thomas Koellner, University of Bayreuth, DE.

Current studies often assess land use change and associated impacts on ecosystem services on a regional scale. Frequently they conclude that the reduction of agricultural land use and the increase of forested land would result on the one hand in a loss of agricultural commodity values, but in the other hand in an over-proportional gain for biodiversity and ecosystem services (e.g., erosion regulation, carbon sequestration, habitat provisioning). However, this conclusion rests on the assumption of a closed regional system. When we assume that regions are open systems with respect to the flow of commodities and the demand for commodities is constant then the agricultural production and associated impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services are just shifted to another location, most likely in developing or emerging countries. The goal of this presentation is to show how the ecosystem services concept is incorporated into Life Cycle Assessment to assess such global flows of land use.

Valuation of ecosystem services at regional levels. Aline Chiabai, BC3 Research.

This study presents a bottom-up methodological framework for estimating some of the key ecosystem services provided by forests biomes worldwide. We consider the provision of wood and non-wood forest products, recreation and passive use services, and carbon sequestration. The valuation framework derives per hectare estimates by applying meta-analysis, value-transfer and scaling-up procedures in order to control the existing heterogeneities across world regions and forest biomes. The first part of the study estimates stock values per hectare for each forest ecosystem service in the baseline year 2000 and in the year 2050. Results differ per geographical region and biome. Carbon stocks represent, on average, the highest value per hectare, followed by provisioning services, passive use and recreational values respectively. The second part provides an estimation of the welfare loss (or gain) associated with policy inaction in the period 2000-2050 leading to a change in the forest area. Welfare results are mixed and require a careful interpretation, ranging from a worldwide annual benefit of +0.03% of 2050 GDP to an annual loss of -0.13%.

The use of ecosystem services concept in the sustainable management of landscapes. Joke van Wensem, Soil Protection Technical Committee, the Netherlands

How can the ecosystem services concept help to manage landscapes in a sustainable way?

A landscape can be defined as ‘the land forms of a region in the aggregate’ or ‘the portion of territory that can be viewed at one time from one place’. A landscape comprises physical (landform), biological (e.g. vegetation) a man made elements (building, streets etc.) Landscape management is not only a regional issue as we need different types of landscapes for the delivery of different kind of ecosystem services. Landscape management at a large scale should allow that all ecosystem services can be provided. For this purpose, spatial planning is the most important instrument to enhance multiple ecosystem services delivery.

The basis of a landscape is one or more linked ecosystems, often adapted by human use. An ecosystem can provide multiple services, but not all, at the same time and place, although human society tends to optimize certain ecosystem services in certain places. Optimisation of particular ecosystem services within a landscape is considered to be more sustainable when the trade off against other services is limited as much as possible. The original characteristics of an ecosystem are also crucially important for the success of the optimisation of an ecosystem service.

From a scientific viewpoint, simple guidelines may be formulated for the sustainable use of ecosystem services and for balancing benefits of optimising one service against the effects this may have on other services. For bringing these into practice in landscape management the managers and stakeholders need to be identified as well as the most important drivers of change. The latter may mean that different spatial and/or governance scales need to be involved. Instruments for limiting trade offs between ecosystem services are amongst others awareness raising, decision support tools including cost-benefit analyses, influencing or creating market mechanisms and regulation.

The major contribution of the ecosystem services concept to sustainable landscape management seems to be that it provides better insight in what society gains or looses when shifts in ecosystem services provision by landscapes occur, and which stakeholders are gaining or loosing. These insights may lead to better informed decisions.

Mind the gap – missing data and knowledge gaps for ecosystem service assessment. Pam Berry, Oxford University, UK.

There are a range of uncertainties, knowledge gaps and controversies in the evidence base for ecosystem services and there is a need to better understand linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem structure, functions and services. These foundational elements will be examined and ways for addressing them investigated, before exploring the limitations these pose for undertaking ecosystem service assessments.