The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy has tasked Member States to carry out an exercise to map and assess the state of ecosystems and the services they provide in their national territories by 2014. This exercise is of essential importance to provide comprehensive information on the status of ecosystems, biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe, as it will help devise adequate environmental legislation, and integrate biodiversity objectives into sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
On International Biodiversity Day (22 May), the European Commission organized a high-level conference on ‘Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES)’ to present the work undertaken by Member States and other key stakeholders to date. The conference demonstrated ways in which reliable, high-quality information in this area can contribute both to reaching biodiversity objectives, and to integrating natural capital concerns into key EU sectoral policies.
“Environmental policy is dependent upon good science and reliable data. We will not succeed in achieving our ambitious goals for biodiversity protection unless we are also prepared to invest in a strong knowledge base to support and inform actions on the ground,” said EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik in his opening speech. “Through MAES we want to provide the best available information on natural capital to guide decisions on complex public and private issues. MAES is the tool we need to develop more effective strategies to protect both the urban and rural environment and the resource base they provide for people, wellbeing and sustained prosperity.”
IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre, chairing the conference’s high-level roundtable discussion, emphasized the strong linkages between IUCN’s own work and the MAES action, particularly in the areas of forest landscape restoration, nature based solutions, peatland restoration, business and biodiversity and the IUCN Red Lists.
“Nature is not a problem, but provides solutions to many challenges we face today,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “Nature based solutions can provide effective solutions to major global challenges while at the same time delivering clear biodiversity benefits, from mitigating and adapting to climate change, securing water, food and energy supplies, reducing poverty and driving economic growth.”
"The MAES initiative is crucial to systemize reliable and credible information on the status of Europe's ecosystems. This data is essential to both the public and private sectors to inform policy and investment decisions alike. The EU can and must continue to take the lead on assessing ecosystem services, and we hope that this will inspire regions around the world to also increase their efforts," concluded Luc Bas, Director of IUCN's EU Representative Office.
The speakers at the event agreed that high quality and consistent data on the condition of our ecosystems and the services that they provide is essential for making the right decisions for future investment in conservation, and that the MAES initiative will play a major role in ensuring the timely provision of such data.