ValuES: Methods for integrating ecosystem services into policy, planning, and practice

Project description

Title: ValuES: Methods for integrating ecosystem services into policy, planning, and practice
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI)
Countries: Global
Lead executing agencies: Environmental ministries in the partner countries; relevant in-country ministries, such as the ministries for energy, development, agriculture, infrastructure, territorial administration, rural development
Overall term: 2013 to 2018

Context

Ecosystem services, such as clean water, fertile soil, the pollination of crop plants and protection against erosion or floods, are essential for human well-being and for the production of food and other goods. The basis of these services lies in the diversity of animal and plant species, genetic variety and healthy ecosystems. Restoring or replacing services that have been degraded or lost often proves very costly or, in many cases, impossible.

The loss of natural habitats due to changes in land use, the overexploitation of natural resources and environmental pollution is leading to a decrease in biodiversity across the globe. The causes of this decline can be combated by mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services as central concerns in all social and political decisions and processes. The concept of ecosystem services is particularly useful for illustrating the importance of nature: it shows our dependence on ecosystems as well as the impact of human activities on the environment. An understanding of these linkages can help to further the development of environmentally sound policy measures and structures to counteract biodiversity loss.

In 2010, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. The Aichi Targets under the Strategic Plan call for greater integration of the value and benefits of biodiversity in policy-making and the promotion of knowledge management and capacity building in this area.

A wealth of methods and tools is available for identifying, measuring, valuing and recording ecosystem services and integrating them into concrete policies and measures. However, the relevant information is difficult to access and knowledge sharing in this field is limited. In the absence of guidance, it has so far been difficult for practitioners to select the appropriate method for a particular situation from the range of possibilities available. Moreover, assessments of ecosystem services are often not taken into consideration in decision-making processes.

Objective

Representatives of ministries and organisations concerned with environmental issues are better able to plan and carry out assessments of ecosystem services as well as to communicate the results of these to target groups in an appropriate manner, and to incorporate them into political decision-making processes.

Approach

The project addresses six core areas:

  1. Analysing existing approaches and best practices
    Existing assessments of ecosystem services are analysed and processed further; the extent to which the results are applied in relevant decision-making and planning processes is also reviewed. Lessons learned are identified and best practices are collated. The project uses the findings as a basis for designing and planning products and activities.

  2. Developing a method inventory
    On its website, the project provides access to information on the methods and tools available for assessing and integrating ecosystem services in the form of a method inventory This inventory helps decision-makers and practitioners to access, select and apply suitable indicators, methods and tools for use within a particular decision-making process.

  3. Building and enhancing expertise and institutional capacity
    The method inventory and the findings derived from sample assessments of ecosystem services serve as the basis for training in methodological and design skills. The focus is on practical knowledge about analysis, indicators, tools and the integration of ecosystem services. The training programmes are set up within partner-country institutions to enable them to function as multipliers at a later date.

  4. Advising partner countries on using methods and tools
    With a view to integrating ecosystem services into policy, planning and practice, the project provides in-process advice to practitioners and decision-makers on the ground. The aim is to develop stronger and effective arguments based on the relevant assessments for this purpose.

  5. Strengthening networks and exchange in national, regional and international forums
    The project contributes its knowledge and experience to international expert networks. It provides support for the establishment of communities of practice at national, regional and international level in order to promote South-South and North-South knowledge sharing as well as more active learning. Peer advisory services are offered at annual events with the goal of developing ideas, putting them into practice and tackling challenges. The project is also involved in the international research debate and in implementing the Strategic Plan set out by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

  6. Strengthening the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
    The project strengthens the structures and processes of the IPBES committee by providing targeted advisory services, disseminating information, contributing logistical and financial support, and organising and carrying out events. The objective is to support IPBES in its approaches, methods, processes and capacities and to raise its profile internationally. At the same time, experience and knowledge gained from work in the project's partner countries are introduced into IPBES to enhance the platform’s effectiveness.

Results

Practitioners and decision-makers have been empowered to select the right biophysical, social and economic methods for their respective situations and contexts in order to survey and evaluate ecosystem services. The results have been communicated to the relevant target groups in an appropriate manner and incorporated into political decision-making processes.

By developing and strengthening partner institutional capacity – which simultaneously promotes the integration of ecosystems services within policy, planning and practice – the project has contributed to reversing the causes of ecosystem degradation and, as such, to preserving biological diversity.

Existing capacities in selected partner countries have been enhanced through training, studies, access to information, knowledge exchange and in-process consultancy and facilitation. The project has carried out training activities to this end in more than 20 countries; to date, over 60 training courses have been offered, each with 20 to 30 participants. This has served to reinforce processes and activities in the countries concerned.

Communication in the respective countries has generated exchange in the context of IPBES, allowing these sustainability dialogues to support IPBES processes as well. The project has incorporated knowledge and experience from international cooperation into IPBES, which is reflected in recommendations made by IPBES for conducting assessments of ecosystem services. Through capacity building and in-process consultancy, the project has enabled partner countries to adopt IPBES recommendations into their national processes and strategies.

As a result of the interaction between various activities, relevant actors – for instance in Mexico – are now able to assess ecosystem services in a way that is purpose-driven using suitable methods and tools. Among other positive outcomes, this allows countries to contribute to implementing the Strategic Plan under the international Convention on Biological Diversity in an appropriate manner.

Further information