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Keywords:

  • Catchment;
  • Watershed;
  • Ecosystem services;
  • Societal benefits;
  • Valuation

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. DISCUSSION
  5. Editor's Note
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. REFERENCES

A narrow technocentric focus on a few favored ecosystem services (generally provisioning services) has led to ecosystem degradation globally, including catchment systems and their capacities to support human well-being. Increasing recognition of the multiple benefits provided by ecosystems is slowly being translated into policy and some areas of practice, although there remains a significant shortfall in the incorporation of a systemic perspective into operation management and decision-making tools. Nevertheless, a range of ecosystem-based solutions to issues as diverse as flooding and green space provision in the urban environment offers hope for improving habitat and optimization of beneficial services. The value of catchment ecosystem processes and their associated services is also being increasingly recognized and internalized by the water industry, improving water quality and quantity through catchment land management rather than at greater expense in the treatment costs of contaminated water abstracted lower in catchments. Parallel recognition of the value of working with natural processes, rather than “defending” built assets when catchment hydrology is adversely affected by unsympathetic upstream development, is being progressively incorporated into flood risk management policy. This focus on wider catchment processes also yields a range of cobenefits for fishery, wildlife, amenity, flood risk, and other interests, which may be optimized if multiple stakeholders and their diverse value systems are included in decision-making processes. Ecosystem services, particularly implemented as a central element of the ecosystem approach, provide an integrated framework for building in these different perspectives and values, many of them formerly excluded, into commercial and resource management decision-making processes, thereby making tractable the integrative aspirations of sustainable development. This can help redress deeply entrenched inherited assumptions, habits, and vested interests, replacing them in many management situations with wider recognition of the multiple values of ecosystems and their services. Global interest in taking an ecosystem approach is promoting novel scientific and policy thinking, yet there is a shortfall in its translation into practical management tools. Professional associations may have key roles to play in breaking down barriers to the “mainstreaming” of systemic perspectives into common practice, particularly through joining u different sectors of society essential to their implementation and ongoing adaptive management. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2013; 9: 252–259. © 2012 SETAC


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. DISCUSSION
  5. Editor's Note
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. REFERENCES

Ever more powerful human capabilities to appropriate a narrow set of desired (generally provisioning) ecosystem services—particularly farmed production of food and fiber, fresh water, minerals, and marine resources—has increased pressures on the natural world. This has compromised the resilience and functioning of ecosystems and their capacity to provide a broad range of benefits to humanity, especially those currently excluded from economic and political decision making. These pressures are intensified by rising population levels and resource demands, and compounded by a changing climate. The diverse societal benefits provided by nature have been classified as “ecosystem services,” the best known and most widely applied classification system for which is that of the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005a). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) classification recognizes 4 broad categories of ecosystem services: “provisioning services” (extractable resources), “regulatory services” (processes that regulate the natural environment), “cultural services” (culturally valued benefits) and “supporting services” (processes essential to maintenance of the integrity, resilience, and functioning of ecosystems).

The water cycle is central to human needs, and the multiple ecosystem services it provides have had a profound influence on cultural and technological evolution (Everard 2011). Water systems also integrate multiple pressures from their catchments, making them disproportionately vulnerable to climatic, hydrological, chemical, ecological, and morphological pressures, many of which have significantly affected the capacity of water systems to support human well-being. This tendency has been amplified by a narrowly framed technocentric model of development. Agriculture exerts the most significant pressure on wetlands and freshwater habitats globally (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005b). Furthermore, in 2000 the flow of rivers was thought to be impeded by approximately 800 000 dams globally, of which 45 000 were identified as “large dams” with a height of 15 m or more and/or retaining a reservoir volume of 3 million cubic meters or more (World Commission on Dams 2000). Many of the world's rivers are also impacted by urbanization with 50%, and increasing, of the global population now living in urban centers (UNFPA 2007). As freshwater ecosystems continue to degrade worldwide, human society is losing the wealth of ecosystem services they provide (Daily 1997).

The need to restore and sustainably manage freshwater ecosystems is becoming increasingly recognized (Gleick 2000; Findlay and Taylor 2006). This has produced an increasing number of legislative drivers across the world. In Europe, many European Union (EU) Directives initially focused on narrow interests such as the Shellfish Waters, Bathing Waters, Urban Wastewater Treatment, and Habitats Directives. However, progressive evolution of regulatory thinking has begun to address cumulative impacts on ecological quality arising from multiple pressures, as demonstrated by the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC). However, regulatory endpoints based solely on environmental quality metrics do not automatically safeguard outcomes for human interests (Everard 2012b).

Recognition of the multiple benefits provided by ecosystems, and the corresponding negative implications for humanity if they are degraded, is driving further impetus toward sustainable ecosystem management. This is captured under the Convention on Biological Diversity (http://www.cbd.int), which commits signatory nations to implement an “ecosystem approach” to management, recognizing the central importance of ecosystems and their services to continuing human well-being, prosperity, and potential. Ecosystem services form a central framework on which the wider social and economic considerations in the ecosystem approach are formulated, and are becoming increasingly adopted in conservation and natural resource management to articulate the wider societal benefits of functional ecosystems and their restoration (Findlay and Taylor 2006; Dufour and Piegay 2009; Eigenbrod et al. 2009; Paetzold et al. 2010).

This article considers the importance of recognizing and protecting the ecosystem services provided by catchments, the central theme of a presentation by the author to the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Special Science Symposium on Ecosystem Services: From Policy to Practice conference (Brussels, February 2012), turning to how the principle obstacles to bringing this into the mainstream of practice may be achieved. The primary focus is on UK and EU examples, though the underlying principles have generic global relevance.

The benefits of an ecosystem approach

Sustainable development recognizes that social and economic progress should be simultaneous and integrated with the vitality of supporting ecosystems (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). However, applying this principle in practice is challenging, due in part to a lack of scientifically robust and pragmatic policy and operational tools (Johnston et al. 2007).

Ecosystem services provide one such pragmatic approach by describing the multiple benefits that society derives from ecosystems (Daily 1997). Ecosystem services collectively underpin human well-being, including health, economic activities, and enjoyment of life, and help expose yet make tractable the complexity and diversity of interactions between society and natural systems. These services must be considered as a contiguous system, such that exploitation of one target benefit is not achieved at cost to other benefits and their beneficiaries, an unfortunate yet commonplace unintended consequence exemplified by the multiple negative impacts of today's intensive food production systems for catchment hydrology, soil structure, nutrient dynamics, and biodiversity. The ecosystem services framework thereby serves as a valuable conceptual tool to connect ecological and societal values within a decision-making framework relating to the ecosystems that supply them, addressing a shortfall in the inclusion of social science in conservation and ecosystem management (Eden and Tunstall 2006).

As ecosystem services are framed as benefits to people, they are inherently amenable to valuation both in monetary and nonmonetary terms (Defra 2007). Notwithstanding clear risks such as transforming nature into a human-centered product (Niemelä et al. 2010), economic tools have an influential role in recognizing, quantifying, and integrating the value of ecosystem services into water and land management and other societal interests yielding more sustainable outcomes. The importance of valuation of ecosystems and their benefits, however imperfect the means, is particularly important to ensure that these values are recognized and become progressively accounted for in business and government decisions (Everard 2009).

The ecosystem approach has proven influential in promoting recognition and progressive valuation by policymakers and resource managers of the multiplicity of services, many of them historically disregarded, in decision making at all scales. A significant number and diversity of studies seeking to value the ecosystem services provided by aquatic systems has been published in the United Kingdom (Everard 2012a), supported by government guidelines on ecosystem valuation that also demonstrate that full quantification and monetization of ecosystem services is not always necessary (Defra 2007). In considering lessons learned from a range of such studies, Everard (2012a) identifies how a system-level view can lead to different insights and decisions compared to a more localized or discipline-specific approach to problem solving, maximizing the public value of management interventions and better recognizing and engaging all stakeholders affected by environmental exploitation or management decisions. United Kingdom government policy is seeking progressively to recognize and “mainstream” the value of nature across all policy areas (HM Government 2011), an aspiration that Everard (2012a, 2012b) concludes requires some new tools but that can be significantly accelerated by building in systemic assessment frameworks, such as the MA classification of ecosystem services, as a screening mechanism into existing management tools such as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and determination of development planning proposals.

Systemic assessment of policy and development options across the full spectrum of ecosystem services may thereby promote the incorporation of sustainable development principles not merely into policy but also into practical decision making and operation. Practitioners are already beginning to make progress with the restoration of some formerly lost ecosystem services in the built environment, particularly as they relate to water systems, bringing genuine and verifiable benefits to the people who live and work within it. Everard and Moggridge (2012) map examples of a range of current ecosystems-based urban development tools and initiatives against both target and potential cobeneficiary ecosystem services, summarized in Table 1. Underpinning each of these related initiatives is recognition of the value of natural processes (although not necessarily explicitly described as ecosystem service outcomes), many of which have been displaced by historic development patterns.

Table 1. Mapping of primary objectives and potential additional benefits of urban development tools and initiatives to MA ecosystem services derived from Everard and Moggridge (2012)
MA ecosystem servicePrimary objective(s) of tool or initiativePotential additional but unplanned benefit(s) of tool or initiative
  1. MA = Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; SuDS = sustainable drainage systems.

  2. Tools and initiatives, including rationale for inclusion and related references, are also found in Everard and Moggridge (2012).

Provisioning services
FreshwaterSuDSGreen infrastructure
 Natural economy NorthwestRiver restoration
  River “daylighting”
FoodCommunity forestsGreen infrastructure
 Natural economy NorthwestNatural economy Northwest
Fiber and fuelCommunity forestsSuDS systems
Genetic resourcesNone explicitlyGreen infrastructure
  Natural economy Northwest
Biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticalsNone explicitlyGreen Infrastructure
  Natural economy Northwest
Ornamental resourcesNone explicitlyGreen infrastructure
  Natural economy Northwest
Regulatory services
Air quality regulationGreen infrastructureSuDS
  Natural economy Northwest
Climate regulationGreen infrastructureSuDS
 Community forests 
 The Ecocities Initiative 
 Natural economy Northwest 
 The Nottingham Declaration 
Water regulationSuDS 
 Community forests 
 River “daylighting” 
 Natural economy Northwest river restoration 
 Green infrastructure 
Natural hazard regulationNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Pest regulationNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Disease regulationNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Erosion regulationNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Water purification and waste treatmentSuDS 
PollinationNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Noise attenuation (an addendum to the MA services)None explicitlySuDS systems
  Green infrastructure
Cultural services
Cultural heritageRiver restoration 
Recreation and tourismGreen infrastructureRiver “daylighting”
 SuDS 
 Community forests 
 Natural economy Northwest river restoration 
Aesthetic valueGreen infrastructureSuDS
 Community forestsNottingham Declaration
 Natural economy Northwest 
Spiritual and religious valueNone explicitly 
Inspiration of art, folklore, architecture, etc.None explicitly 
Social relationsGreen infrastructure 
 Community forests 
 River “daylighting” 
 Natural economy Northwest 
 River restoration 
Health benefits (an addendum to MA services)Green infrastructureSuDS systems
  Green infrastructure
Science education, research and teaching associated with biodiversity and environmental management (an addendum to MA services)Community forestsSuDS
  River restoration
  Green infrastructure
Supporting services
Soil formationNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
  Natural economy Northwest
Primary productionNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Nutrient cyclingNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Water recyclingRiver restorationSuDS
  Green infrastructure
  Natural economy Northwest
PhotosynthesisNone explicitlySuDS
  Green infrastructure
Provision of habitatSuDSRiver “daylighting”
 Community forestsGreen infrastructure
 Natural economy Northwest 
 River restoration 

An ecosystem service case study of anticipated outcomes from regeneration of the Mayes Brook and its course through Mayesbrook Park (East London, UK) found evidence of benefits accruing to multiple constituencies across virtually all of the MA ecosystem services, and that ecosystem services may also have a significant role in communicating with and linking different stakeholder and service beneficiary groups (Everard et al. 2012). Setting formerly fragmented interests (for example in amenity provision, flood risk management, and biodiversity) into a systemic framework can also help tap and integrate disparate discipline-bound funding to create greater cumulative societal outcomes. These conclusions are endorsed by the review of ecosystem services case studies noted above (Everard 2012a). Therefore, there is considerable scope to make use of, rehabilitate, or emulate urban ecosystems to simultaneously improve hydrology, access to green spaces including potential low-C transport routes, break down “heat islands,” and produce a range of other beneficial services (Everard and Moggridge 2012).

The value of investment in protection or restoration of natural processes is not lost on industries most closely connected with them. The British water industry has been a pioneer of reinvestment to protect or restore natural catchment processes. One example is United Utilities, a major owner of upland water catchment land and the public water service provider in the north west of England, which formulated and implemented SCaMP (the Sustainable Catchment Management Programme; http://www.corporate.unitedutilities.com/scamp-index.aspx) under the 2005 to 2010 British water industry investment cycle. SCaMP recognizes that investment in positive management of water-yielding but historically degraded upland catchment land benefits not only biodiversity but also customer value by controlling rising water color, largely caused by dissolved organic matter with its associated problems for public supply entailing increasingly expensive treatment. This win–win approach represents “real world” market advantage by investing in ecosystem functions and services to purify water draining from managed uplands, coincidentally yielding a range of additional benefits including habitats for biodiversity, retaining sequestered C, stabilizing farm incomes, and protecting the tourism value of landscapes (Everard 2009). In the south west of England, South West Water (SWW), the regional water service provider, was quick to see the advantages of partnering with the Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT; http://www.wrt.org.uk), an environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) that has strong links with farm businesses, as an effective means to tackle diffuse pollution from agriculture, the greatest pollutant source and continuing threat to its abstractions for public supply. Under the 2010 to 2015 water industry investment cycle, SWW agreed with government to recycle customer investment through WRT to broker farm improvements under the “Upstream Thinking” program (http://www.upstreamthinking.org). A 65:1 benefit to cost ratio is anticipated from Upstream Thinking based on projected improvements to raw water quality and savings on treatment costs, and from which further ecosystem service benefits such as enhanced fish recruitment and fishery protection, improved biodiversity and amenity uses are “stacked” for free.

Everard et al. (2009) chart the evolution of flood risk management from a single-discipline and often parochial paradigm of “defense” toward a progressive approach to catchment-scale thinking that recognizes the value of retaining water in catchments and the rehabilitation of habitats and their ecosystems and hydrological services. Although this ecosystem-centered approach to flood risk management is as yet far from mainstream practice, even where policy instruments create a presumption in favor of such approaches, the permeation of ecosystems thinking into flood risk policy change is clear and progressive. This trend toward ecosystems-centered flood risk management is mirrored across much of Europe as well as the United States (e.g., DuBowy 2010).

For Upstream Thinking, SCaMP and the recent evolution of flood risk policy, ecosystem-based approaches that protect or restore natural catchment functions also result in enhancement of many other ecosystem services (such as improved fishery recruitment, biodiversity protection, aesthetics, and amenity) that come “for free.” This conclusion is confirmed by analysis of lessons learned from ecosystem services case studies (Everard 2012a) and by the opportunities presented by integration of urban ecosystem management (Everard and Moggridge 2012, as summarized in Table 1). Increased recognition and safeguarding of the many services provided by catchment ecosystems, many of them formerly overlooked and consequently degraded, can provide greater cumulative benefits to more diverse sectors of society. This underlines the importance of including all services and their beneficiaries into policy planning and operational decision making, not merely as a matter of equity but as a means to incorporate the resilience of ecosystems and their net contribution to resource security and net societal value.

Tools to make ecosystem services operationally effective

From the origins of the concept in the 1980s, ecosystem services have proven a valuable pedagogic and decision-support tool to demonstrate and communicate the systemic connectivity of ecosystems, their functions, the diverse benefits that they provide, and close interdependencies between the beneficiaries of these services. At international scale, the MA has proven politically influential. At national level, assessment of trends in broad habitat types and their prognosis for human well-being in the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) (UK National Ecosystem Assessment 2011) has helped frame government-wide policy direction (HM Government 2011). International interest in the UK NEA is promoting implementation of similar analyses at state, national, or subregional scales (e.g., Times of India 2012), helping promote the value of processes within catchments and other ecosystems in other countries. Ecosystem services are also proving to be a valuable tool to highlight a range of sustainability challenges, from management of agriculture and climate to land use planning, forestry, fisheries, watersheds, tourism, and biodiversity (OECD 2010).

However, to influence practice beneath the conceptual or policy level, and to deliver more sustainable outcomes for ecosystems, people, and economic stability, it is also necessary to develop pragmatic, operatically relevant, decision-support tools incorporating the ecosystem services framework. Furthermore, essential catchment processes need to be translated urgently by practical tools to support operational, regulatory, and planning decisions beyond mere compliance with standards, recognizing instead their contribution to consequences for human well-being (Everard 2012b). These ecosystem service-based tools are not impossible to develop; for example, the eThekwini Catchments tool has proven effective as a transparent means to support development planning decisions on the basis of ecosystem services capacity in tributary rivers feeding into the greater Durban area in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Diederichs et al. 2002). This tool brought ecosystems thinking into mainstream planning and environmental management practice through an intuitive graphic “traffic light” interface that also helped communicate with multiple, nontechnical stakeholders the importance of respecting the natural limits of ecosystems.

Despite this exemplar, Everard and Moggridge (2012) highlight a paucity of practical operational tools that fully integrate an ecosystem approach. Development of systemic context within practical tools is therefore a priority, particularly in spatial planning to ensure optimal outcomes for all people impacted by urban development. This is particularly important given the need to halt the unintended negative consequences that can occur when ecosystem services are overlooked (Whitford et al. 2001).

Beyond policy formulation and operational implementation, further monitoring is also required to enable adaptive management to respond to actual outcomes across ecosystem services. Tools to integrate learning from this monitoring into adaptive management are as yet nascent.

A substantial science base is also required to support tools from policy influence through to practical application and adaptive management. Major research initiatives such as the United Kingdom's NERC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS; http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/programmes/bess) and Valuing Nature Network (VNN; http://www.valuing-nature.net) programs, as examples of others internationally, are building further capacity to support such assessment and policy reformulations. Although many research questions remain to be addressed, for example the development of indicators of service provision (Maltby et al. 2010), the urgency of engagement and the consequences of inaction are becoming more evident.

DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. DISCUSSION
  5. Editor's Note
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. REFERENCES

The industrial trajectory of the developed world has tended to overlook the value of natural systems and processes to diverse human interests and overall system resilience. This omission has resulted in pressures leading to progressive degradation of the very resources on which settlements, industries, and indeed whole civilizations were founded (Diamond 2004). Implementation of the ecosystem approach, recognizing once again the many historically disregarded values and vulnerabilities of catchment systems and the wider natural world, is an essential step if these core resources are to be safeguarded. Without such an informed and engaged commitment to sustainable development, catchment systems will continue to become degraded through land use, resource overexploitation, and a range of other adverse pressures, to the detriment of human well-being (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005a).

Ecosystem services and the ecosystem approach are not, of course, the only frameworks recognizing the need to integrate the diverse views of stakeholders in catchment systems, and to recognize the value of water and other ecosystems. The 4 “Dublin Principles” of 1992 (http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/hwrp/documents/english/icwedece.html), agreed by consensus prior to the 1992 Earth Summit as defining the essential elements of integrated water resources management, include recognition of water as an economic resource that serves the needs of multiple constituencies of society. The economic value of water, and the need to factor this into decision making about water management and its potential to support multiple stakeholders in society, is also included in the 7 Policy Principles of water resource management identified by the World Commission on Dams (2000) as well as within the EU Water Framework Directive. However, it is necessary to convert these high principles into pragmatic action.

The ecosystem services framework has already helped make this transposition from ideal to practice, framed as these services are by the benefits that ecosystems provide simultaneously for diverse stakeholder groups. It can thereby provide a means to integrate the perspectives of multiple stakeholders and their often diverse value systems, ranging from the provisioning service of medicinal plants to the cultural services of spiritual and aesthetic value, within a common integrated approach amenable to practical planning and decision-making tasks. Ecosystem services thus provide a framework to integrate radically differing world views and value systems, and thereby may serve as a lever to redress deeply entrenched inherited assumptions underpinning contemporary resource use. These assumptions include the overemphasis of current markets on commercially exploitable services and the implicit conceptualization of natural resources as inherently boundless, the widespread historic overestimation of the resilience of water resource and catchment systems to the multiple pressures imposed on them, and the exclusion from decision making of the multiple, often disregarded, benefits that ecosystems provide for the diversity of stakeholders recognized in the MA framework of ecosystem services (Everard 2009). Ecosystem services thereby support more informed, equitable, and sustainable planning and decision making.

The science underpinning contemporary understandings of ecosystem services has been evolving since the 1980s and is the subject of substantial continuing research investment. The ecosystem services and ecosystem approach frameworks themselves have been exercised at global and national scales and in terms of international commitments (i.e., the Convention on Biological Diversity). National-scale, government-wide commitment is exemplified in policy direction, if not yet policy internalization, by the UK government Natural Environment White Paper (HM Government 2011).

Ecosystem service provision by watersheds and other natural resource systems is becoming progressively better appreciated in scientific and policy terms. However, the 2 key shortfalls to changing practice would seem to be 1) the formulation of practical tools transposing this systemic intent into operational public and private investment and decision-making processes, and 2) means to monitor outcomes that can be fed into an adaptive approach to management.

Overcoming the first of these gaps entails the progressive reinterpretation or replacement of a legacy of tools often founded on a narrow disciplinary basis (e.g., compliance with chemical and biological standards) with those that address a broader context of human well-being outcomes, including security of the ecosystems that underpin them. The challenge for tools developers and users is not primarily technical, but a matter of bringing together consortia of interests—social and natural scientists, economists, policy-makers, tools developers, and tool users—to develop pragmatic operation tools that support decisions respecting all ecosystem services and their beneficiaries. The eThekwini Catchments tool is one such example promoted by a collaboration of consultancy and local government, whereas SCaMP and Upstream Thinking are examples of businesses taking the lead in ecosystem-based investment support tools. Everard (2009) recognizes that transparent and now global supply chain accreditation schemes such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) represent novel means to internalize aspects of ecosystem services into markets, driven by a consortium of business and NGO interests. It is therefore not implicit that leadership will come top-down from government, but may arise from any sector of society or else a consortium of sectors with common goals.

The second gap is one of consistent and adaptive application, the monitoring necessary to secure it, and feedback into adaptive management. The inclusion of tool users in tools development consortia may be essential not only to ensure the operational pragmatism of ensuing tools, but also to secure the “buy-in” of practitioners. These tools also have to be made amenable to supporting an adaptive approach to management to ensure that outcomes after decisions are adequately monitored (e.g., the consequences for water systems and/or biodiversity from land use decisions or subsidies) and are fed back into revisions of policy and ongoing management. This will require collaboration of all affected parties from the earliest stages of recognition, and commitment to a learning approach supported by adequate monitoring of outcomes.

Ultimately then, the “mainstreaming” of the ecosystem approach into practical operation in catchments and other habitats may be limited less by technical difficulties than by securing collaboration across societal sectors in the development of pragmatic decision-support tools. Positive examples cited throughout this article have been variously led by local authorities, consultancies, NGOs and businesses whether independently or, more influentially, in consortia of common interest. Innovation should not be stifled by expectation that leadership should be top-down from government, as the evidence suggests it may most effectively emerge from any societal sector, or a combination of sectors, with an interest in bringing others together. This should not be a surprise as the first principle of the CBD definition of the ecosystem approach is that “The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choices”; the importance of connecting people, as beneficiaries of better-functioning ecosystems as well as principal actors in their positive management, should inform a more participatory approach to changing the basis of decision making.

In this early stage in the transition from historic “siloed,” discipline-bound thinking toward consideration of consequences across whole socioecological systems, there is not yet a consistent model for bringing together common interests for the cocreation of tools embedding the ecosystem approach. However, if the principal obstacle is now at this level of practical implementation, it also at this level that more intense focus on innovation is required.

Professional societies may have a key advocacy and development role to play by connecting professionals from all scales and sectors in a more systemic approach to decision making and practice. Constituted as they are by representatives of a diversity of backgrounds connected by common interests, these societies are ideally placed to encourage cross-sectoral integration and the breaking down of barriers to embed systemic perspectives into the mainstream. This spans not merely theoretical disciplines but, critically, reaching into the practical, multi-disciplinary management of fragile yet vital natural systems.

Editor's Note

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. DISCUSSION
  5. Editor's Note
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. REFERENCES

This paper is 1 of 8 articles generated from the SETAC Special Symposium: Ecosystem Services, from Policy to Practice (February 15–16, 2012, Brussels, Belgium). The symposium aimed to give a broad overview of the application of the ecosystem services concept in environmental assessment and management, against the background of the implementation of the European environmental policies such as the biodiversity agenda, agricultural policy, and the water framework directive.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. DISCUSSION
  5. Editor's Note
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. REFERENCES

The author is grateful to the Environment Agency for supporting travel to the SETAC Special Science Symposium on Ecosystem Services: From Policy to Practice conference (Brussels, February 2012) at which the underlying arguments in this article were presented.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. DISCUSSION
  5. Editor's Note
  6. Acknowledgements
  7. REFERENCES
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