Report for policy makers: Protecting ecosystems brings benefits to society

A new report by PEER looks at methods for assessing the benefits of ecosystem services, with implications for EU policies and biodiversity targets.

A spatial assessment of ecosystem services in Europe: Methods, case studies and policy analysis Photo: PEER

By Erica Roggio, CEC member

Knowledge gaps stand in the way of performing a spatially-explicit, biophysical, monetary and policy assessment of ecosystem services in Europe. The PRESS initiative (PEER Research on EcoSystem Services) is a collaboration between a number of PEER research institutes addressing some of these gaps. The starting point is the need to upgrade the knowledge basis of land-use information and mapping to reflect the existing knowledge about ecosystem services and their social and economic values, to better inform policy design and decision making processes.

Ecosystems are critically important to our well-being and prosperity as they provide us with food, clean air and fresh water and they maintain a livable biosphere. Consequently, it is increasingly considered to be of crucial importance that ecosystem services be included in decision making for policies that affect the use or the state of natural resources. New biodiversity policies that have been adopted at global and EU levels have set targets to safeguard biodiversity and to maintain the supply of ecosystem services.

In order to achieve biodiversity targets, changes in policies affecting natural resources must be shown to be beneficial to human well-being through the enhanced flow of ecosystem services. Investments must also be prioritised and made cost-effective based on a sound knowledge base and reliable assessment methods.

  • This study carried out case studies to help explore how such assessment methods might be developed at multiple spatial scales, in particular for pollination, recreation and water purification.

The spatial assessment of these ecosystem services carried out in this study includes maps that display the potential and actual supply of these services in both biophysical and monetary units. Scenarios were used to estimate the changes in the flow of ecosystem services and the benefi ts that could arise as a result of policy changes. Our approaches show that the inclusion of the ecosystem services concept into policies would allow for a systematic review of the consequences of policy measures for services beyond conventional environmental assessments.

This second and final report of the PRESS study consists in a Synthesis for policy makers.
Printed copies may be requested by sending an e-mail to
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Partnership for European Environmental Research (PEER): Seven major public environmental research centres in Europe pursuing a joint scientific strategy to support national and EU policy makers, industry and society in achieving ecological sustainability. The member Institutes are Alterra, CEH, DCE, Irstea, JRC-IES, SYKE, UFZ

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. 

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