PROGRESS: Online Thematic Seminar

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Thematic Seminar on the measurement of the costs and benefits of ecosystem services goes ahead online

PROGRESS partners pushed ahead and held the 1st Thematic Seminar online on the 31st of March having originally been scheduled for the same date in Barcelona. Partners, stakeholders and guests presented and discussed selected Good Practices (GPs) which contribute to the measurement and recognition of the costs and benefits of ecosystem services in our regions.

Besnik Mehmeti (ANCI Toscana), coordinator of the project, opened the event by reminding participants that “we are living in difficult times, but now, more than ever, we need to improve our knowledge of ecosystem services”. As stated by the UNEP, the COVID-19 outbreak highlights need to address threats to ecosystems and wildlife.

From transport to energy, agriculture and cultural wellbeing, policies and actions can have many unintended consequences. The delivery of ecosystem services depends on the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, from pollination to the nutrient cycle. Though our wellbeing relies upon these ecosystem services, they are often regarded primarily as public goods with social, economic and environmental benefits rarely detected by our current economic compass. This can lead in many cases to the destruction of natural capital, even where it offers a sustainable flow of services to the economy and to society. Therefore, policymakers should have sufficient information and tools to inform their decisions and avoid natural habitat loss.

With this final aim in mind, we presented and discussed different GPs in relation to the measurement of the costs and benefits of ecosystem services derived from land use. GPs were selected in each partner region through consultation with expert stakeholders. Some stakeholders also attended the on-line meeting to provide deeper insights.

Among them, Carles Castell, head of the Territorial Planning and Analysis Office of Barcelona City Council, presented an excellent example of how information could help policy makers in efficient decision making though the SITxell territorial analysis system: “SITxell was applied at various stages of development of the Barcelona Metropolitan Plan, which finally stated that 70.4% of the area of the region are of special protection for their natural and agricultural interest”.

Dr Owen Douglas, EU Project Officer at the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly (EMRA) presented two GPs, the ‘All-Ireland Pollinator Plan Framework’ and the ‘National Ecosystem and Ecosystem Services Mapping Pilot’. Having undertaken an evaluation of GPs relevant to the seminar theme, Dr Douglas identified these GPs as exemplary, with strong evidence of success and potential for transferability to other regional contexts. This assessment also provides the basis for the development of  Action Plans for the successful implementation of these practices across the EMRA region by means of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES).

Among many of the other interesting practices discussed were the SOS4LIFE project, presented by Fabrizio Ungaro (Italian Council of Research, Institute of Bioeconomy) which focused on the important, but often overlooked topic of soil ecosystem services; the LIFE EcosystemServices project (Latvia), which involved an economic assessment of services and potential scenarios to compare the consequences of different decisions, and; the cross-border joint natural and technological hazards assessment in the Danube floodplain demonstrated a successful cross-border collaboration between Romanian and Bulgarian authorities.

Partners are now tasked with selecting the best of these GPs (at least 4!) for inclusion in the project handbook. Keep updated on the project webpage!

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