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  Special edition Eurosite eNewsletter
  ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
Dear friends and colleagues,

Protected nature sites, due to the rich biodiversity they harbor, are European hot spots in terms of the ecosystem services they deliver. Site managers have a key role to play here, as only by proper management these sites will continue to do so in the future.

Ecosystem services comprise all the (potential) benefits of products and services from processes and functions of ecosystems that are and can be used by people. As such, they are important and even indispensable for human life on earth. The ecosystem systems delivering these products and services can very well be seen as  a basic part of our economies. Therefore, these ecosystems are often referred to as natural capital. 

Nature is valuable in itself and therefore worth to be protected. On top of that, nature also has a value that is essential for human life on earth and that cannot be overlooked in the struggle for sustainability. It is important to combine nature conservation for its own sake with the management of our natural capital that is delivering ecosystem services. This integration of nature conservation for its independent value and for its value of use is at the heart of our mission as the Eurosite Working group on Economics and Ecosystem services. Our roadmap in fulfilling this mission contains three elements:
  • to raise awareness of the ecosystem services and natural capital concepts among (protected) nature area managers; 
  • capacity building among site managers on how to implement ecosystem services in their day-to-day work 
  • to find ways to utilise the ecosystem services approach to generate additional funding for site management and nature conservation.
The last element is inevitably the tough one, but we do believe it to be right for the economic revenues of nature to contribute to the maintenance of our natural capital. 
 
On 3 November we provided a webinar on these issues as part of the Eurosite Annual meeting 2020 'Zooming' in on European natural site management — from plan to action. Please find some impressions of the presentations and discussions of that day in this thematic newsletter. 
 
READ MORE ON THE ECONOMICS AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES WORKING GROUP
What are ecosystem services and how can they be brought into practice?
Nature provides society with a broad array of benefits: ecosystem services. These can be categorised as production, regulating, cultural, and supporting benefits. Unfortunately, these benefits of nature are often overlooked. Making the benefits of nature visible by using the concept of Ecosystem Services can help site managers overcome disciplines. The identification and evaluation of ecosystems and their services can be done at different levels (site, region, country) and can be a useful tool for decision making, communication and fund raising.

Natuurmonumenten is convinced that nature can be a solution for much of the problems we face today. We have worked in many ways with the concept of ecosystem services throughout our organization from production services till cultural services. We advocate for more Natural Climate Buffers: nature areas where natural processes are prioritized and synergized with other challenges in an integrated concept. These areas can fulfill a role in for example climate adaptation/mitigation, water management (in objectives like storing water, prevent water shortage) and have ultimate gains for biodiversity. Often these natural solutions are cheaper than conventional solutions. One concrete example is the Natural Climate Buffer the Onlanden, a low-lying peat area of circa 2,5 thousands hectare located nearby Groningen. All the extra benefits of nature restoration are made concrete in this new factsheet. Although, there are many challenges in bringing ecosystem services in practice, as the problem of free-riders still exist, we are making steps on (payments on) ecosystem services and keep on exploring ways for it!


Esther Moens - Natuurmonumenten
Using GIS to calculate carbon values for the peatland code PES (Payment for Ecosystem Services) scheme
This presentation examined the practical uses of GIS to calculate CO2 reductions from peatland restoration for the peatland code PES (Payment for Ecosystem Services) scheme, using one North Pennines site in the as an example. It began by explaining that the purpose of the peatland code is to enable private funding for restoration linked to quantifiable greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and outlining the importance of standard methods to ensure buyer confidence. Bare peat revegetation and hydrological restoration were introduced as the two methods resulting in GHG reductions claimable under the code. 
 
The presentation explained that as an area-based tool GIS has an important role to play, as GHG reductions depend on the size of restoration areas. GIS can be used at several points in the process of calculating emissions. This includes using aerial imagery combined with maps to get an initial overview of a site and its erosion features, tracing and buffering linear features, identifying bare peat areas through image classification and performing area based calculations. However site visits remain important for peatland code sites for ground truthing, assessing restoration practicalities, recording high resolution drone imagery and undertaking peat depth and detailed vegetation surveys. The presentation concluded by explaining that to get the most from GIS for peatland code calculations good data management and consideration of the effects of image resolution was needed.  
 
Approximately 40 people were in (virtual) attendance and several questions were asked about how carbon reductions were calculated. It was explained that the figures were based on numbers from a UK government report which ascribed different emission levels to peatland condition categories and that reductions were based on category changes occurring as a result of restoration. This common methodology allows a range of sites across the country to be eligible to secure funding through the code and has a simple monitoring protocol that doesn’t require GHG measurements. 
 
At the North Pennines AONB work is ongoing to test the suitability of the peatland code as an PES mechanism for fund restoration. If you would like further information please contact andrew@northpenninesaonb.org.uk


Andrew Stimson - North Pennines AONB Partnership
Mapping ecosystem services in an urban landscape: the Çankaya district case study
Within the scope of the project, “Ecosystem Services as an Urban Planning Tool: The Case of Çankaya District” was published. The book emphasizes the importance of urban spatial planning taking into account nature-based solutions and ecosystem services, and at the same time, the book provides a tool to guide decision-makers and practitioners on these issues. During the preparation of the book, these services were mapped on a neighborhood scale in order to reveal the spatial distribution of ecosystem services that residents of Çankaya benefit from, the local contribution of each service was evaluated, problems encountered in case of lack of these services. In addition, the strengths and weaknesses of each service were determined and recommendations for green infrastructure and nature-based solutions were provided to decision-makers and practitioners.
 
According to the results of the studies, the most important ecosystem services provided by the green areas in Çankaya district are the provision of food, recreation, air purification and local climate regulation services. In the book, these services are first described in each chapter, the equivalent of the services in urban areas are explained, and then Çankaya scale maps of these services using the supply-demand methodology are figured. Furthermore, in each section, the relation of the relevant service with the green infrastructure is given, and the equivalents of the services at the neighborhood and park scale are also shown with graphics.
 
You can read the book here (in Turkish). 


Semiha Demirbaş Çağlayan - Doğa Koruma Merkezi (Nature Conservation Centre)
Tutorial: Ecosystem Services and QGIS — a practical exercise
There are lots of different ways to assess ecosystem services (ES). When you are a beginner in the field, it seems like many of them rely on some complicated model and/or costly software. Therefore, the purpose of this practical exercise was to showcase some basic functions of QGIS: free and open source software which can be used to assess the situation at your site and communicate certain spatial issues or potential conflicts with your colleagues or stakeholders, even if you do not have a lot of data and/or you would like to stick with the simpler approach.

Since it was intended as a sequel to the webinar on QGIS basics that was organised earlier this year, the tutorial moved rather quickly through some QGIS basics and went straight to the point. For the sake of the exercise, a preliminary ES screening was conducted in QGIS, using the ES matrix approach, and visualising the results with a map. By the end of the tutorial, the main message became quite obvious to all participants- everyone can do it, all you need is a spark of curiosity and some time on your hands to explore it in depth!


Marina Škunca - Geonatura Ltd
People gain many benefits - or ecosystem services - from nature. They encompass a broad range of products and services like timber, food, medicines, clean air and water, water retention and protection against floods, climate mitigation, recreation, etc.
Click to watch the European Commission's video about ecosystem services.
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