Ecosystems provide countless and essential benefits to humanity, such as food, clean water and clean air. Assigning financial values to ecosystem services – and incorporating them into land management and conservation decision-making – can complement traditional approaches to preventing biodiversity loss.
The European Commission’s LIFE programme unit and the Baltic Environmental Forum are organising with the support of the Neemo EEIG External Team a LIFE platform meeting on ecosystem services in Tallinn (Estonia) on 10-12 May 2017 that will showcase a variety of restoration techniques, innovative approaches to improving our knowledge and understanding of ecosystem services, new management initiatives and governance challenges.
Entitled, Costing the Earth? – translating the ecosystem services concept into practical decision making, the meeting is being organised within the framework of LIFE Viva Grass (LIFE13 ENV/LT/000189), a project to improve land use and conservation policies for the long-term maintenance of grassland biodiversity and the ecosystem services that grasslands provide.
The main goal of the event is to assess the role of the LIFE programme in demonstrating the ecosystem services concept in the EU. It will bring together over fifty LIFE projects and other organisations involved with ecosystem services, to uncover solutions to help overcome the barriers and bottlenecks that limit the extent this approach can play in halting biodiversity loss.
In terms of the policy context, Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 seeks to maintain and restore ecosystems and their services across Member States, with obvious shared benefits in relation to climate change and the wider environment. In October 2015, the European Commission published a Mid Term Review of the Strategy. The report concluded that progress has been made on policy and knowledge improvement actions under this target and some restoration activities have taken place in Member States. However, this has not yet halted the trend of degradation of ecosystems and their services.
LIFE projects provide many practical demonstrations of how to maintain and restore ecosystems. At the platform meeting, this experience will be structured around three key themes: defining/mapping ecosystem services; valuing ecosystem services; and the application of the ecosystem services concept in decision making.
The lessons learned at the event will inform guidance documents to be produced after the meeting. A panel discussion will also draw conclusions concerning the contribution of the LIFE programme to policy targets in relation to ecosystem services, and integrating ecosystem services approaches into different policy sectors. Conclusions from the meeting will be submitted to the Natural Capital Directorate in DG Environment, and other policy-making bodies.
The platform meeting will conclude with field trips to see ecosystem services in action in rural environments in Lahemaa National Park in northern Estonia and urban ecosystems in Tallinn.