Ecosystems are essential to our well-being and prosperity as they provide us with food, clean air and fresh water. Ecosystems also represent an exceptional source of outdoor recreation opportunities. The functions performed by ecosystems that increase our well-being are called ecosystem services. The PEER Research on EcoSystem Services (PRESS) initiative describes how different EU policies can help to increase the services and benefits provided by ecosystems, and calls for the inclusion of the ecosystem services approach into European policy measures affecting the use or state of natural resources.
The results of this research initiative were presented in Brussels on 13 September to an international panel of experts which helps DG Environment of the European Commission with the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. The report prepared to describe these results outlines a strategy which aims to promote a better understanding of how ecosystems and biodiversity provide essential benefits to our society. Launched in 2010, the PRESS initiative demonstrated how European researchers, including social scientists, economists, and ecologists, can combine their expertise to map and assess the natural, social and economic values of ecosystems services.
The first phase of the study, which was concluded in September 2011 with the publication of a first PRESS report, demonstrated methodologies to map the role of ecosystems as providers of clean water and recreation and investigated how ecosystem services can be mainstreamed into agriculture, fisheries or forestry policies. The second and final phase of the study consisted of case studies carried out on pollination, recreation and water purification to explore how assessment methods to measure and map ecosystem services might be developed at multiple spatial scales.
A spatial assessment of ecosystem services in Europe: Methods, case studies and policy analysis -- phase 2. Synthesis report is intended to convey four main policy messages:
Sound and cost-effective management of ecosystems should also take into account those EU policies that directly and indirectly influence ecosystems and the services they provide, e.g. policies designed to bring about social and economic changes, such as those on international trade, agriculture, land use, and nature conservation.
Including the ecosystem services concept in all social and economic policies would allow for a systematic review of their impacts on services, beyond conventional environmental assessments. The PRESS initiative recommends that new policies should be flexible in design and continuously monitored in order to be able to react and adapt to new circumstances, and that baseline levels and goals should be quantified in order to be able to measure progress. It calls for the broad collaboration of stakeholders at all levels, including researchers, policy makers, and citizens.
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