Intermediate LEVEL CONTENTS

I.4) Instruments for Ecosystem Services implementation

intermediate

Learning Objectives

  • Acquiring information about the national and regional state of the art of Ecosystem services implementation

  • Developing the trainees’ capacity to manage sources of information related to different countries and created with different institutional purposes

  • Consolidating the information about the legal basis when using ecosystem services in decision-making or governance processes

When participating in or leading a governance or decision-making process, it is essential to have background information on why ecosystem services are a key element in national policies and local strategies concerning environmental management and territorial development.

Policy background for Ecosystem Services

Environmental management aims at finding strategic ways to deal with the interactions of humans and the natural environment. It tries to find comprehensive solutions to conserve nature, protect habitats, control hazards and preserve and sustainably use natural resources and ecosystem services. Environmental managers can base their decisions on policies provided at national and international level, as well as different tools for implementation.

For the implementation of management strategies for the environment and for ecosystem services, the definition of objectives is crucial. Objectives are important for identification of the most relevant ecosystem services but also for the development and interpretation of indicators.

Objectives clearly dedicated to ecosystem services can be found in the EU biodiversity strategy (European Commission (EC) 2011):

  • 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.” (p. 2)
  • Target 2: “By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructures and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems.” (p. 5)
  • Target 3*3 A) Agriculture: By 2020, maximise areas under agriculture across grasslands, arable land and permanent crops that are covered by biodiversity-related measures under the CAP4 so as to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and to bring about a measurable improvement(*) in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by agriculture and in the provision of ecosystem services as compared to the EU2010 Baseline, thus contributing to enhance sustainable management.
  • Target 3* B) Forests: By 2020, Forest Management Plans or equivalent instruments, in line with Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)21, are in place for all forests that are publicly owned and for forest holdings above a certain size**5 (to be defined by the Member States or regions and communicated in their Rural Development Programmes) that receive funding under the EU Rural Development Policy so as to bring about a measurable improvement(*) in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by forestry and in the provision of related ecosystem services as compared to the EU 2010 Baseline.

In the annex of the EU Biodiversity Strategy (European Commission (EC) 2011) there are concrete actions assigned to the targets which also contain objectives. In particular, actions 5, 6 and 7 dedicated to target 2 express relevant sub-objectives such as:

  • Action 5: Mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services in the national territories by 2014, assessing the economic value of these services and integrating these values into accounting and reporting systems at EU and national level by 2020
  • Action 5a: development of a strategic framework for ecosystem restoration at sub-national, national and EU level
  • Action 6b: Development of a Green Infrastructure Strategy by 2012, promotion of green infrastructures in urban and rural areas and incentives for encouragement in green infrastructures and the maintenance of ecosystem services
  • Action 7b: Proposing an initiative by 2015 to ensure no net loss of ecosystems and their services
  • Action 11b: Fostering innovative mechanisms (e.g. payments for ecosystem services) to finance the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem services provided by multifunctional forests.

Indirectly the maintenance and improvement of ecosystem service provision is also an objective in the EU Green Infrastructure Strategy (European Commission 2013), in which the development of a green infrastructure is regarded as an important tool for the maintenance of ecosystem services.

The objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy are quite motivating but also challenging. The present status however reveals that the objectives have so far not been met in the EU. On the other hand, this means further efforts are needed at national as well as transnational level to improve the situation. The EU strategy sets a framework which should be used to address issues for transnational cooperation.

Also within the EUSALP strategy the ecosystem service concept is considered a priority topic. Therefore the according national or regional objectives can be a starting point for the development of common objectives and common action needed for the management of ecosystem services.

Situation in Alpine countries

Objectives for the preservation of Ecosystem services

At present in the Alpine countries at national level no explicit objectives for ES protection or development exist. References are made mainly at strategic level, such as in national biodiversity strategies (Austria, Germany, Italy). However, there are several efforts under way to integrate the ES concept into decision making processes at national level (e.g. Italy: new national law…).

  • The Italian national biodiversity strategy explicitly mentions ecosystem services in two of the three strategic objectives.
  • In France within the EFESE (French National Assessment of Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services) programme the status of ES will be analysed.

At regional level in South Tyrol the regional law for landscape and spatial planning mentions ES mapping and monitoring. In the Piemonte region concrete objectives for ES preservation are part of the Landscape Territorial Plan, the Soil Consumption Law and are in the guidelines for “Ecologically equipped productive areas”.

Sectorial objectives for the preservation of ecosystem services

In the sectorial policies no immediate targets for ES management have been adopted, but indirect references can be found in almost all Alpine countries in national laws on nature conservation, forestry, agriculture and rural development.

A common framework in the EU countries are legislative requirements based on EU directives such as the Water Framework Directive, Birds Directive and Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive.

National biodiversity strategies and national nature conservation acts often contain general objectives which can be used as a reference for the maintenance of ecosystem services as well.

As the state government is responsible for nature conservation laws in some countries, further analyses could be carried out in follow-up activities.

Ecosystem services as guidelines for development

The ecosystem service approach may also be used as guideline or general principle. This application is established in some Alpine countries:

The German forest strategy 2020 requires forest ecosystem services to be considered in the second column of agricultural subsidies.

In Slovenia ecosystem services are addressed in the Strategy for Spatial Development.