MAES Stakeholder Workshop 17-18 June 2019

 

On 17-18 June, the European Commission DG Research and Innovation (DG RTD) hosted the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services (MAES) stakeholder workshop in Brussels, Belgium. InnoForESt project partner, the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO) was in attendance to participate in the dialogue on the mapping and assessment of forest ecosystem services and communicate on the InnoForESt project as it relates to this topic.

MAES began in 2013 with a goal of creating an effective analytical framework for ecosystem assessments under Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 in order to stimulate political action. DG RTD has provided a great deal of support for this Horizon 2020 initiative. This workshop provided an opportunity for stakeholders to engage in the first EU ecosystem assessment and emerging narratives and for the MAES Working Group to showcase their outcomes and ask for guidance and policy advice from Member State representatives and relevant stakeholders. The results of MAES will support the maintenance and restoration of ecosystems and their services. Since 2013, the MAES Working Group has held several workshops and produced five technical reports. One of the first outputs is a cogent analytical framework which was developed in 2013 to be employed by the EU and its Member States in order to ensure consistent methods.

The workshop included several sessions dedicated to the main ecosystem types such as Marine, Agriculture, Urban, Forest and Freshwater and Natural and Semi-natural ecosystems. The forestry session, presented by Jose I. Barredo from JRC and Andrea Vettori from DG ENV, demonstrated the poor condition of European forests, with only approximately 20% considered to have “favourable” status. The MAES Working Group compiled multiple existing data resources such as COPERNICUS, HD & BD Reporting, EEA, FOREST EUROPE, UNECE, FAO, EASIN, JRC, CORINE, and GUIDOS Toolbox for analysis to form the basis for their assessment approach. In their report, the Working Group will consider the gaps they found in available data and highlight the need for further research.

The discussion focused on explaining why trends occur and whether they are linked to pressures or policy actions. For example, forest area increase could be related to CAP measures or land abandonment, but there must be sufficient information to assess status and trends of ecosystems and their services in the EU to infer any causation. Additionally, is the current method of data collection/monitoring adequate and if not, how can it be improved? This session provided the opportunity to introduce the innovative approach of InnoForESt in fostering the improvement, assessment, and mainstreaming of policy and business innovations into the European forestry sector. Much like MAES, the InnoForESt project also aims to generate an all-inclusive information database and maps which provide an understanding of the forestry innovation landscape, intended to improve decision-making, particularly in policy design and business allocation.

The Ecosystem Services session was co-chaired by Sara VALLECILLO (JRC) and ENV.D2. Ms. VALLECILLO provided an overview of how ecosystem services are changing. The discussion focused on effective indicators to measure the condition of an ecosystem and the quantity of an ecosystem service at a given level. Key discussion points included changes in ES potential, increase of ES demand and linkage with assessments by ecosystems. It was emphasized in the discussion that indicators should be assessed in the context of multiple factors, not isolated as indicators do not describe standalone processes. Quite the opposite, as one pressure can have a cascade effect on multiple forest traits, causing deviations in the ecosystem that can be caught by other indicators. Only a selection of important indicators were highlighted within the workshop. These include effective rainfall (noticing a significant decrease across the EU which can lead to mean temperature increase), dry matter productivity (observing an increase in growing season and CO2 fertilization in plants), productivity change in drought impacted areas, ratio of annual felling to annual increment, growing stock (biomass), invasive alien species in forest and woodland areas (no trend available), and forest fragmentation (emphasizing that the EU trend is not representative and this should be analyzed at a local scale).

Action 5 and MAES have been actively creating, scaling up and aligning an amalgamation of mapping and assessment activities at national and regional scales. The recommendations from this workshop will be reported in September 2019. Their next steps include finalizing the integrated ecosystem assessment (including ecosystem services) to support the post-2020 Biodiversity policy framework.

 

By: Lindsey Chubb
    Project Officer
    European Landowners’ Organization