Valuation Of Terrestrial Ecosystem Services In A Multifunctional Peri-Urban Space ("VOTES”): Final Report

Corentin Fontaine, Rik De Vreese, Ingrid Jacquemin, Jesse Lambrecht, Alysson Marek, Dieter Mortelmans, Nicolas Dendoncker, Guénaël Devillet, Louis François, Ann Van Herzele

Research output: Book/Report/JournalCommissioned report

Abstract

The on-going environmental degradations, acknowledged by many international reports and scientific studies (MEA 2005, TEEB 2010), do not only threaten Nature but also endanger Human Kind. Most importantly, the loss of biodiversity results from complex interactions between natural and socio-economic causes among which climate and land use change are paramount. As a result, the ability of ecosystems to support human wellbeing and sustainable growth, thanks to the services they provide, has been reduced substantially.
Amongst the causes of ecosystems degradation, many have been formally acknowledged by decision makers. A major contributing factor is the failure of current decision-making to recognise the social and environmental values of ecosystems, beside the usual monetary measures, in spite of the many services provided by ecosystems to human wellbeing (MEA 2005, TEEB 2010). These contributions are not fully recognized because they are still not yet comprehensively recorded. Therefore, one necessary step to halt further degradation is to ensure that future policies consistently include non-monetary values of nature in policymaking processes.
In order to do so, existing (and new) tools and methods need to be adapted (and developed) for assessing systematically, quantitatively and qualitatively the values of ecosystem services in a given landscape. Furthermore, they need to be accessible by and comprehensive for policy makers, at both local and regional levels. These tools and methods should allow capturing the current values of natural capital as well as monitoring its potential changes in the future.
The task is tremendous and will be achieved only when sufficient scientific work gathering enough interdisciplinary teams will be completed. The VOTES project (Valuation Of Terrestrial Ecosystem Services in a multifunctional peri-urban space) is only one piece of the gigantic puzzle building sustainable development.
The project aimed to address the lack of ecosystem service identification and integration into policy processes by quantitatively valuating ecosystem services for a case study area in central Belgium (part of the river Dyle’s catchment) under the context of climate and land use change. Scenarios developed in two other projects (i.e. the SSD-funded MULTIMODE and EC-funded ECOCHANGE projects), taking into account climate and socio-economic changes, project large amount of change in land use over the coming decades. This is especially the case in peri-urban areas where the pressure from urban development is the highest. Consequently, the size and distribution of the agricultural, natural and forest ecosystems are expected to vary dramatically, hence affecting the ecosystem services they provide. Moreover, changes in land management practices within land cover classes are expected to impact the provision of ecosystem services. This suggests the need for an integrative, multi-ecosystem approach to look at changes in ecosystem services.
The benefits of using ES valuation to decision makers are, first, to provide decision makers and stakeholders with a clearer picture of the: [1] previously less visible costs to society from damage to our natural capital and, [2] the economic benefits from managing it well. Second, to explore how the natural environment can help to deliver policy objectives in new ways that could reduce inefficiencies and create multiple public benefits at a time when we all have to do more with less.
The importance of ES in international policy is also underlined by two commitments made by EU leaders in March 2010. The first is the 2020 headline target:
"Halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss"
The second is the 2050 vision:
“By 2050, European Union biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides – its natural capital – are protected, valued and appropriately restored for biodiversity's intrinsic value and for their essential contribution to human wellbeing and economic prosperity, and so that catastrophic changes caused by the loss of biodiversity are avoided.”
Also, on the national level, the concept of ecosystem service valuation increasingly appears in policy documents (e.g. MINA 4 , MIRA , NARA in Flanders).
The lack of consideration for the value of ES in current decision-making is recognised as one of the main reasons leading to an intense competition over well-located available land (TEEB 2010). Land Use Change (LUC) is a human-induced factor widely identified as having a dramatic impact on ecosystem structure and processes and hence on the services they provide (Turner et al. 1997; Lambin et al. 2001; MEA 2005). However, previous studies that tried to value ES were either conducted at a broad scale using simple ‘benefit transfer’ approaches which do not allow for analyses of change in value under new land use conditions or were conducted at a fine scale, over small spatial and temporal extents and only focusing on a single ecosystem (Nelson et al. 2009) and ignoring potential trade-offs between the provisions of different services. Arguably, this lack of a holistic approach is precisely why maximizing specific ecosystem services such as food production in Belgium and Europe has had such a detrimental impact on the environment.
Therefore, the VOTES framework explicitly refers to the spatial and temporal dimensions of ES in the valuation process of this ‘natural capital’. The spatial distribution of land uses (patterns) affects the amount of ES available in the study area at a given point in time. Changes of the land use patterns through time may modify strongly the quantity and the quality of ES in that area.
In order to address these complex spatio-temporal dimensions, we propose a looping stepwise procedure starting with valuations of ES at present. The social, biophysical and economic valuations are based on current land use patterns. Subsequently, scenarios of LUC are simulated and used to explore potential losses (and/or gains) of ES in the future of the study area. Among these, a focus is put on developing a sustainable development scenario, in order to anticipate future challenges for ES, relating to more sustainable landscape management and decision-making. Buckling-up the participatory loop, key stakeholders are confronted with the indicator trends in order for the local community to debate and gain insights on the potential consequences of a set of decisions about sustainable landscape management and use.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBelgium Science Policy
Commissioning bodyBelgium Science Policy (Belspo)
Number of pages87
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Ecosystem Services Valuation
  • Socio-Ecological System
  • Land use change
  • landscape dynamic modelling
  • participatory modelling
  • stakeholders interviews
  • Grounded Theory
  • sustainable development scenario
  • policymaking guidelines

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    Fontaine, C., De Vreese, R., Jacquemin, I., Lambrecht, J., Marek, A., Mortelmans, D., Dendoncker, N., Devillet, G., François, L., & Van Herzele, A. (2012). Valuation Of Terrestrial Ecosystem Services In A Multifunctional Peri-Urban Space ("VOTES”): Final Report. Belgium Science Policy . http://www.belspo.be/belspo/fedra/proj.asp?l=fr&COD=SD/TE/05A