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Mapping Ecosystem Services

April 03, 2017 |

This book is available online at Advanced Books.

Forward by Anne Teller, European Commission,, Directorate-General Environment.

“The world’s economic prosperity and well-being are underpinned by its natural capital, i.e. its biodiversity, including ecosystems that provide essential goods and services for mankind, from fertile soils and multi-functional forests to productive land and seas, from good quality fresh water and clean air to pollination and climate regulation and protection against natural disasters. This is the reason why, for example, the first priority objective of the 7th Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) of the European Union (EU) is to protect, conserve and enhance the EU natural capital. In order to mainstream biodiversity in our socio-economic system, the 7th EAP highlights the need to integrate economic indicators with environmental and social indicators, including by means of natural capital accounting, to measure the changes in the stock of natural capital at a variety of levels, including both continental and national levels.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 called on Member States to map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services in their national territory by 2014, with the assistance of the European Commission. The economic value of such services should also be assessed, and the integration of these values into accounting and reporting systems at EU and national level should be promoted by 2020 (see Target 2, Action 5).

This specific action aims to provide a knowledge base on ecosystems and their services in Europe to underpin the achievement of the six specific biodiversity targets of the strategy as well as including a number of other sectoral policies such as agriculture, maritime affairs and fisheries and cohesion.

Mapping ecosystem services is essential to understand how ecosystems contribute to human wellbeing and to support policies which have an impact on natural resources. In 2013, an EU initiative on Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) was launched and a dedicated working group was established with Member States, scientific experts and relevant stakeholders. The first delivery was the development of a coherent analytical framework) to be applied by the EU and its Member States in order to ensure consistent approaches. In 2014, a second technical report) was issued which proposes indicators that can be used at European and Member State’s level to map and assess ecosystem services. The indicators are proposed for the main ecosystems (agro-, forest, freshwater and marine) and the important issue of how the overarching data flow from the reporting of nature directives can be used to assess the condition of ecosystems is also addressed.

From the start of MAES, some exploratory work was undertaken in parallel to assess how some of the biophysical indicators could be used for natural capital accounting. It was also important to ensure that the data flows available at European level and, in particular, those from reporting obligations from Member States would be used for the mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their condition. More recently, dedicated work on urban ecosystems was initiated with the active contribution of many cities and a fourth technical report) on mapping and assessment of urban ecosystems and their services was published. An overlapping activity on the strengthening of the mapping and assessment of soil condition and function in the long-term delivery of ecosystem services is also being developed.

In the context of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a study of available approaches to assess and value ecosystem services in the EU was supported by the European Commission to support EU countries in taking forward Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.

In 2015, a Knowledge Innovation Project on an Integrated System for Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services Accounting (KIP INCA) was launched jointly by four Commission services (Eurostat, Environment, the Joint Research Centre and Research and Innovation) and the European Environment Agency. This project aims to design and implement an integrated accounting system for ecosystems and their services in the EU, to serve a range of information needs and inform decision making of different policy sectors, building on existing work in EU countries. Important ecosystems services provided by nature will therefore be explicitly taken into account and demonstrate, in physical and to the greatest extent possible in monetary terms, the benefits of investing in the sustainable management of ecosystems and natural resources.

Finally, the European work undertaken under Target 2, Action 5, is actively contributing to major ongoing initiatives, such as the global, regional and thematic assessments under the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the UN guidelines on experimental ecosystem accounting from the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (UN SEEA EEA).

At present, with the constructive support of research and innovation projects and actions, such as ESMERALDA and with the amount of work already accomplished in the Member States and at EU level, the momentum for the next steps is impressive (

The policy developments in Europe, but also in many other countries and at global scale, have spurred the scientific community to map ecosystem services, to develop new methods, to assess uncertainty of maps and to provide practical applications of using maps in various decision-making processes. This book is an excellent summary of the achievements of ecosystem service mapping and provides guidance for scientists, students, practitioners and decision makers who need to map ecosystem services.

There are still big challenges ahead of us such as the improvement of the mapping and assessment of the ecosystem condition and the integration of the assessment of the ecosystem condition with ecosystem services and the construction of the first ecosystem accounts. As highlighted in this book, we are however on a very positive track!…”

Read on and access this book online at: Advanced Books.

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