SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  3 November 2011
Volume 12 Issue 11

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Special Science Symposium: Ecosystem Services, from Policy to Practice

Ecosystem Services Special Science Symposium Steering Committee

On 15 and 16 February 2012 SETAC Europe will hold the 5th Special Science Symposium (SESSS), which will address the use of the ecosystem services concept for the implementation of European environmental policies.

Ecosystems are under considerable threat from the environmental consequences of an increasing human population and its even greater demand for energy, water, food and other natural resources. People depend on ecosystems for their basic requirements of life (e.g., food, water, fuel, shelter), as well as from the functions of ecosystems necessary to sustain our modern lifestyle and well-being. These benefits are termed ecosystem services and are classified as provisioning services (e.g., food, fuel), regulating services (e.g., climate regulation, pollination), cultural services (e.g., educational values, aesthetic values) and supporting services (e.g., photosynthesis, nutrient cycling). The ecosystem services concept was highlighted by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment1, in order to explain the link between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. More recently, an international study on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity has drawn attention to the global economic benefits of ecosystem services2. The ecosystem services concept provides a useful tool for communicating our dependency on ecosystems and the importance of environmental management that focuses on protecting ecosystem service delivery.

The ecosystem services concept is gaining increasing prominence in environmental policy-making and several environmental organizations have adopted it. For instance, the EU has set a target of halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020 and restoring them as far as is feasible3. Although the concept is gaining popularity with regulators and policy makers, and much attention has been given to the valuation of ecosystem services, the underlying science required to put policy into practice is still under development. Sustainable management of ecosystem services is more than improving environmental quality; it also requires a consideration of trade-offs between ecosystem services as well as spatial and temporal discontinuities between service provision and utilization in the long term. Local scale actions may have consequences at the landscape, national or global scale. Hence the scientific understanding used to underpin the evaluation and management of ecosystem services needs to apply at these larger spatial scales considering landscape structure.

The special science symposium aims to introduce the ecosystem services concept and its applications in environmental assessment and management to a broad audience. The focus will be on the implementation of the European environmental policies, such as the biodiversity agenda, the agricultural policy and the water framework directive.

The Program
The program of the symposium includes of a general introduction of the concept, stakeholder perspectives, ecosystem services provision by rural and urban areas and watersheds, indicators for ecosystem services, methods to valuate and assess ecosystem services and management of ecosystem services. Discussions and poster sessions are included in the program.

Invited speakers will provide the platform program of the SESSS. The program details will be updated regularly at The call for poster abstract will be open until 15 November 2011, which is also the early registration deadline. The scientific steering committee consists of: Joke van Wensem Soil Protection Technical Committee NL (chair); Lorraine Maltby Sheffield University UK (co-chair); Eamonn Farrelly Syngenta UK; Udo Hommen Fraunhofer IME DE; Katja Knauer Federal Office for Agriculture CH; Thomas Koellner Bayreuth University DE; Paulo Sousa University of Coimbra PT.

1MEA (2005). Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and human well-being: biodiversity synthesis. Washington, DC, World Resources Institute.
2TEEB (2010). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. Mainstreaming the economics of nature: a synthesis of the approach, conclusions and recommendations of TEEB.

Author contact information: Joke van Wensem, Chair:,
Lorraine Maltby, Co-chair:

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