The latest LIFE platform meeting took place on 10-12 May 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia, where participated also a project "LIFE EcosystemServices" representatives, by giving a presentation and presenting a poster.
The theme was ecosystem services and the discussion focused on how to get the concept into practical decision-making. The event was hosted by the Baltic Environmental Forum under the auspices 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.
Over 100 people from 16 Member States attended the meeting, including policymakers, academics and representatives from 50 LIFE projects. The meeting showcased a variety of restoration techniques, innovative approaches to improving knowledge and understanding of ecosystem services, new management initiatives and governance challenges.
Ecosystems provide numerous and essential benefits to humanity (i.e. ecosystem services), such as food, clean water and clean air. Assigning financial values to these services - and incorporating them into land management and conservation decision-making - can complement traditional approaches to preventing biodiversity loss.
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; it 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 stopped the trend of degradation of ecosystems and their services.
In his opening address to the platform meeting, the Estonian Minister of the Environment Marko Pomerants gave an overview of what the country is doing in terms of ecosystem services, "thus far, the most extensive undertaking has been the development of the methodology for mapping and evaluation of marine ecosystem services [...] completed last spring. In 2015, we launched the most comprehensive project on the national scale for mapping of Estonian ecosystem services."
The minister added that such mapping is only the first stage in a wider process. "We must start actively thinking about practical applications, especially in terms of how to integrate this valuable knowledge into decision-making," he noted.
LIFE projects provide many practical demonstrations of how to maintain and restore ecosystems and their services. The platform meeting explored their experience in defining and mapping ecosystem services, valuing these services, and applying the concept in decision-making, in three working groups. In total, 21 LIFE projects presented their work and experiences at the event, including several which have used existing tools or developed new ones to define, map and assess ecosystem services, such as LIFE Viva Grass, TREMEDAL (LIFE11 NAT/ES/000707), Ordunte Sostenible (LIFE11 NAT/ES/000704) and LIFENaturEtrade (LIFE12 ENV/UK/000473).
The working groups benefited from presentations by a wide range of projects, such as EcoCo LIFE Scotland (LIFE13 BIO/UK/000428), LIFE ADAPTAMED (LIFE14 CCA/ES/000612), LIFE Blue Natura (LIFE14 CCM/ES/000957), and LIFE Natura2000ValueCrete (LIFE13 INF/GR/000188). This was followed by discussions exploring the definition, mapping and valuation of ecosystem services, and how the lessons learned could be used to inform policy. The results will be used to help produce guidance documents for LIFE projects working on or making assessments of ecosystem services.
The platform meeting concluded with field trips to see rural ecosystem services in action in Lahemaa National Park and urban ecosystems in Tallinn.
An in-depth report on the platform meeting will be covered in a forthcoming edition of the LIFE newsletter.