Integrated Catchment Manager and Ecosystem Services Research

The Ecosystem Services Workgroup at ECOBE focuses on methodologies and concepts to optimize ecosystem services generation through the creation, restoration and management of ecosystems. Our research focuses on conceptualizing ecosystem functioning in relation to ecosystem services, including their landscape interactions and external forcings (e.g. climate change).
We develop concepts and methodologies to identify and classify ecosystems from a functional viewpoint. Determining factors for the potential of ES-generation will be the hydro-topological setting and other abiotic factors. Subsequent we need to assess how the present vegetation/ecosystem interacts within this setting. The combination of both is the starting point for ES-generation. This knowledge on ecosystem functioning enables the identification of indicators and the development and implementation of a mapping methodology for different ES. 


The water system provides direct or indirectly numerous goods and services. Since long time these goods and services are used to support our society in various ways. We can distinguish visible and fast renewable resources as fish, crops, timber and drinking water that distinctively can be linked to the water system. A combination of growing needs and a technological ability has resulted in an increased control and manipulation of the water system.  These developments have finally led to a serious degeneration of the system’s carrying capacity. The past and present large scale exploitation of marketable ES (Infrastructure, Agriculture, Forestry) has led to such a degenerated environmental quality that there is a severe impact on society (flooding, water shortage, desiccation, pollution, land-erosion, pests…and biodiversity  losses). These problems are usually solved by technical solutions such as water retention basins, sewage infrastructure, treatment plants, canalization and normalization, dredging, dams, pumping, drainage, irrigation wells, embankments, etc….The implementation often brings about secondary effects (further disturbance of hydrological cycle and nutrient cycles leads to further loss of ecosystem functioning).  This pathology of command and control is still relevant today and there is a profound pressure on policy makers to solve environmental problems by quick and visible solutions.

The key challenge of modern policy making in the domain of ecosystem management is to prevent or reduce the degradation of ecosystems and their services while meeting increasing demands. Therefore integrated and multi-disciplinary tools are required that give clear insights in the ecosystems ability to supply services, that estimate the size of these services and its impact on human welfare and that predict the consequences of human transformations on its future ability to deliver these services. These tools need to be spatially explicit and should be able to produce maps representing the spatial distribution of supply and demand for ecosystem goods and services, its size and its monetary value. They should also be able to assess how the size and value of ecosystem goods and services are altered due to shifting land use, global changes, etc. The potential of landscape management and planning for ecosystem service generation needs to be examined as a true option to reach both environmental and societal policy objectives at different scales.  Many ecosystems in Western Europe have been degraded, fragmented and have been contained in their succession stage through active management. Many ecosystems have been isolated from landscape gradients and are managed as islands losing their landscape functionality. Hydro-geomorphologic landscape units can be analyzed on their landscape functionality and classified/mapped as potential, existing or effective ecosystems.

The Ecosystem Services Workgroup at ECOBE focuses on methodologies and concepts to optimize ecosystem services generation through the creation, restoration and management of ecosystems. Our research focuses on conceptualizing ecosystem functioning in relation to ecosystem services, including their landscape interactions and external forcings (e.g. climate change) with a key focus on water and river related dynamics.


In order to map ES, we need to identify and classify ecosystems from a functional viewpoint. Determining factors for the potential of ES-generation will be the hydro-topological setting and other abiotic factors. Subsequent we need to assess how the present vegetation/ecosystem interacts within this setting. The combination of both is the starting point for ES-generation. This knowledge on ecosystem functioning enables the identification of indicators and the development and implementation of a mapping methodology for different ES.  

Integrated catchment management is a crucial aspect because many ES are strongly related to water dynamics. It is necessary to evaluate human activity, land use and ES generation from a catchment perspective. In order to define a sustainable balance of ecosystem service generation and ecosystem service exploitation, there is a need to find a balance between the upstream supply of goods and services and the downstream use of goods and services . River mediated ES that are generated upstream will have a higher potential to generate benefits, since the downstream trajectory is longer. While upstream human activities have a (negative) impact on the downstream river system. Within our research group we try to develop methodologies that will allow us to research these considerations and implement them into policy tools.
  1.     ECOsystem services of FRESHwater systems (ECOFRESH)
  2.     BElgium Ecosystem Services (BEES): A vision for society–nature interactions
  3.     ECOPLAN – Planning for Ecosystem services
  4.     SUDEM- CLI - Impact of climate change on river hydrology and ecology: A case study for interdisciplinary policy oriented research – 
          BELSPO-SSD research project
  6.     Economic Valuation of Nature Landscapes for Cost-Benefit Assessments of Nature Compensation Projects (EU Habitat and Bird Directive
          Compensation Projects)  
  7.     Ecosystem Services in Flanders: A new challenge for nature conservation?
  8.     Integration of Ecology, Sociology and Economics In Water Policy by Means of a Policy Support System

ECOsystem services of FRESHwater systems (ECOFRESH)
·         Type of project: Research project
·         Financial support: Belgian Science Policy Office – Science for a Sustainable Development (BELSPO -SSD)
·         Coordinator: Ecosystem management Research Group – University of Antwerp
·         Partners: 1) Flemish Institute for Technological Development (VITO) – Environmental economics group 2) Flemish Institute for Nature and
          Forest Research (INBO)  3) Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven) - Lab Aquatic Ecology and EvolutionaryBiology 4) GhentUniversity,
          Laboratory for Environmental Toxicology and Aquatic Ecology
·         Start – end : 01/03/2010 – 31/03/2012 (24 months)
·         Contact:

Freshwater ecosystems are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, despite their unique biodiversity and the important ecosystem services they deliver (provisioning services, such as fish, shellfish, reed,...; regulating services, such as water regulation and water purification,..; supporting services, such as primary production, nutrient cycling,..  ;and cultural services, such as recreation).
In this research proposal, we target to provide insight on the (potential) importance of freshwater ecosystem services in Belgium, based on three case studies.  We will develop an integrated methodology which can contribute to scientific-based ecosystem assessments, and to analyze how management and/or policy can contribute to optimise the delivery of ecosystem services to society.  Considering the limited time and means, it will not be possible to investigate all the Belgian freshwater ecosystems, therefore we choose to select three case studies for a thorough analysis and methodology application. They include a river system  (Grote Nete, till the river Scheldt), a stagnant water system (Flow through Ponds Midden-Limburg) and an extensive wetland system (Hautes Fagnes).  These study areas cover to a large extent the different types of freshwater ecosystems of Belgium, and are certainly representative for several ecosystem services.  In this way, we also cover a large range of spatial scales (cf. individual pond versus large pond complex) and temporal scales (frequent interventions up to a one-off intervention).

The general methodology is built on the recent developments of the ecosystem services (ES) concept. We choose for the approach of Luck et al. (2009) and Fisher et al. (2009), who make a clear distinction between intermediary and final ES. They also make a clear link between ES and users, where ES become only a ‘benefit’ when the ES is ‘consumed’.  
The project consists of 5 working packages (WPs), with each a number of tasks: 
WP1 will describe the different freshwater ES, based on a literature review. In a next step, we will identify the ‘service providers, SP’ (sensu Luck et al., 2009) of the different case studies.  For that purpose, we will identify and map the ‘hydrogeomorphic units’ (HGMU) which can be considered as ‘supporting systems’ and we will identify functional groups and individual flora and fauna species that act as service providers.  This will provide us a clear insight in the attributes which are responsible for the delivery of ES. Also a historical analysis will be conducted in order to assess how these attributes changed over time. 

In WP2, w e will review the potential relationships and feedback mechanisms between attributes, functions and important services of ecosystems for the three major freshwater case studies.  Based on this review, we will construct general conceptual models that schematically summarize the nature and relative strength of the important mechanisms that generate or affect ecosystem services. We will also add a higher level of complexity to these models by incorporating anthropogenic pressures, climate change scenarios and relevant management schemes. Furthermore, we will aggregate at least two levels of spatial scale into our models, in order to account for the scale dependency of ecosystem services and the processes that generate them. Using real data, we will apply our general models to our specific case studies and evaluate historic land use changes in terms of historic ecosystem service gains and losses. Finally, we will make some projections on future changes in anthropogenic pressures and ecosystem service needs.

In WP3, ecosystem services defined in WP1 and 2, will be monetized using values calculated by own models and literature. A lot of studies in literature focus on one single habitat or one single service. We want to go a step further in this WP by focussing on the aggregation over ecosystem services (and avoiding double counting) and over scale (upscaling to regions) using distance decay functions and data on substitutes.
WP4 is a very innovative part of the research proposal. We will transform the earlier conceptual biophysical models and socio-economic insights into Bayesian Belief Networks (BBN).  BBN are valuable and flexible tools for integrating available expert knowledge and empirical data, thus strengthening decisions when empirical data are lacking or incomplete.  These models will be built for the different systems and the different ES. Once built, the models will be tested and optimized, and finally used to calculate the effects of different scenarios(e.g. climate change, policy choices, management types).  
Finally, in WP5, the social and policy processes of the management of freshwater ecosystems in the 3 case studies will be investigated.  In a first step, a stakeholder analysis will be conducted, in order to identify the owners and beneficiaries of ES, and to elucidate their personal and/or institutional motivations.  This will help us to better understand how the actual management plans were designed, and why they choose certain instruments.  Based on such an analysis and the knowledge gained from the earlier WPs, we will formulate options to strengthen the social and ecological resilience of freshwater ecosystems (i.e. ‘adaptive management’).  These insights will then be translated to policy relevant messages. 
BElgium Ecosystem Services (BEES): A vision for society–nature interactions

·         Type of project: Cluster project (clustering expertise and networking)
·         Financial support: Belgian Science Policy Office – Science for a Sustainable Development (BELSPO -SSD)
·         Coordinator: Ecosystem management Research Group – University of Antwerp
·         Partners: 1) Flemish Institute for Technological Development (VITO) – Environmental economics group 2) Flemish Institute for Nature and
          Forest Research (INBO)  3) Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven) - Lab Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 4) Université Libre
          de Bruxelles (ULB) - Institut de Gestion de l’Environnement et d’Aménagement du Territoire 5) Natural Resources Human Environment and
         Agronomy (RHEA) 6) Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences 7) Service Public de Wallonie Direction Générale Opérationnelle de
         l'Agriculture, des Ressources Naturelles et de l'Environnement (DGARNE)- Département de l’Etude du Milieu naturel et agricole (DEMNA)
·         Start – end : 01/03/2010 – 31/03/2012 (24 months)
·         Contact:

This project consists mainly of workshops covering different aspects of Ecosystems Services Research. The workshops are in English and at least one key researcher from abroad, specialised in that topic, will be invited to give a key note speech The format of the workshop (presentations, debate, brainstorming sessions) can vary, depending on the objectives of the workshop. After the workshop, the coordinator will make a text summarizing the workshop as a chapter for a report. This chapter will be distributed to all participants who contributed to the workshop and will be co-authored by them. It is very likely that the workshops will also lead to more intense bilateral communications with experts from outside the project consortium.
It is our profound belief that advances on ES research cannot only depend on large-scale initiatives and a top-down knowledge transfer. Like ecosystem services, there are scaling issues involved. The ecosystems in our region might differ from those in other regions, both in terms of ecological aspects as from a socio-economical viewpoint. To put Belgian research on ecosystem services on the international map, there is a need to structure and focus the research initiatives within the Belgian context. Our cluster initiative aims to:

A ► Bring together key scientists, policy makers and organisations that are either already involved with ES-research or who might catalyse the ES-research.
B ► Make an inventory on the ES expertise (a who’s doing what).
C ► To get a state of the art of ecosystem service related research in Belgium and to bring forward a methodology that could be used as a basis for an ecosystem assessment of Belgium.
D ► Evaluate the opportunity to establish a “virtual” research institute on ES research in Belgium, covering the necessary expertise to contribute to large international research initiatives.
E ► Formulate recommendations for scientific programmes and policy objectives. 

Figure 1 : An overview of the workshops and their interrelations.
In First stance we make an inventory of existing expertise. Past and present projects that are related to Ecosystem services are included in the BioBel research database. By use of this inventory, we are capable to invite all relevant actors at a series of workshops that deal with specific aspects on ES-research.  

A first workshop covers the inventory outcome and aims to identify which ES need to be prioritised n the Belgian context. Indirectly this determined which ecosystems and processes have research priority for research and monitoring of ES. 
The second workshop covers the state of art in terms of methods to assess the variability and heterogeneity of ES-delivery on different scales. ES are delivered by complex interactions, processes and mechanisms that occur on different spatial scales and temporal dimensions (seconds, hours, days, …years). In addition, the demand for ES is also dependent on spatial and temporal dimensions. Knowledge on this subject is crucial to determine the quantity and timing of effective ES-delivery.
The third workshop has a specific focus on the role of biodiversity on the generation of ES. Biodiversity in all its aspects (habitat-diversity, abiotic diversity, species etc…) has a positive effect on ES. Through which mechanisms does biodiversity promote ES, what are the most crucial aspects and how to evaluate biodiversity in the ES-context?
The fourth workshop deals with valuation methods for ES. Which methods are most suitable and how do we deal with spatial and temporal aspects in the valuation of ES? How do we value biodiversity and the option value of potential ES?
The fifth workshop brings the attention to the impact of international trade of ES. Mostly unaware, we are all intensive users of ES that procure from elsewhere. Also, we are exporting certain ES to other nations. What is the impact and sustainability of these ES-flows?
The sixth workshop aims to bridge the gaps between ES-research and policy development. What research is needed and for what policy? How can ES contribute to reaching various policy objectives and challenges? Which institutional, economic and juridical barriers need to be overcome in order to implement the ES-concepts in the different policy domains?

 A final symposium will be elaborated in close cooperation with the funding agency (BELSPO) and has the objective to communicate the outcome of the project to a broad public (non experts, policy makers, NGO’s etc..).
ECOPLAN – Planning for Ecosystem services

·         Type of project: Strategic Basic Research Pre-proposal Project (pre-consultation of end-users for valorization objectives and screening of scientific expertise)
·         Financial support: Institute for Science and Technology  (IWT)
·         Coordinator: Ecosystem management Research Group – University of Antwerp
·         Partners: 1) Flemish Institute for Technological Development (VITO) – Environmental economics group 2) Flemish Institute for Nature and Forest Research (INBO)
·         Start – end : 15/12/2009 – 15/12/2010
·         Contact:

ECOPLAN is a Pre-proposal trajectory for the development of a Strategic Basic Research Proposal on Ecosystem Services. The pre-proposal traject aims to facilitate the writing of a full-Strategic Basic Research Proposal with an important societal finality. This includes a broad consultation of potential end-users which allows to closely involve potential end-users (administrations, institutes, NGO’s) in the setting of valorisation objectives and a demand-based research agenda. The involvement of multiple policy domains and stakeholders not only as end-users but also as partners during the research project will safeguard their engagement and allow scoping of the research towards actual implementation. Strategic Basic Research projects are large innovating research projects with scientific outputs that are useful for further development by the end-users or spin-off projects.  After the consultation, a valorisation report is made, from which research priorities are bundled into a coherent research framework. Based on the research framework, a research consortium with the neccesary expertise is put together.
ECOPLAN builds on the following rationale : Like many regions in Western Europe, the rural matrix in Flanders is under high pressure because of land use fragmentation and environmental degradation.  There are enormous challenges to improve the environmental and ecological quality of the Flemish Region in order to comply with EU environmental standards. The current measures and actions are not adequate enough to reach these standards and already costs for environmental management are very high. Institutional fragmentation of competences in environmental management causes a lack of integrated measures that improve environmental quality on multiple aspects which often leads to inefficient or adverse policy initiatives. The ES-approach can be a unifying concept, bringing together different environmental, social and economical aspects.

The concept of ecosystem services has a huge potential to effectuate a sustainable management of landscapes, based on rational criteria of cost-effectiveness. ECOPLAN aims to develop spatial explicit planning tools for the creation/restoration of functional ecosystems as a cost-efficient and multi-purpose strategy to improve environmental quality. The potential of landscape management and planning for ecosystem service generation needs to be examined as a true option to reach both environmental and societal policy objectives at different scales. The aim of ECOPLAN is to develop an adequate scientific basis to contribute to a policy-relevant strategy for ecosystem services research in Belgium as part of the overall policy of sustainable development. Balancing eco-centric and anthropocentric interests has always been a difficult exercise, but the concept of ecosystem services demonstrates that these are not entirely opposite viewpoints. Regarding nature landscapes as producers of Ecosystem Services allows us to value ecological infrastructure within landscape contexts. This valuation can only be made on the basis of a thorough quantification of the demand for ES and thorough knowledge on the ecological functioning of ecosystems as suppliers of ES. A broad range of ecosystem services will be screened on their policy relevance e.g. the regulation of water flows and water quality, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, nature recreation, soil formation and conservation, biomass energy production, protection against pest and invasive species, pollination, climate regulation.

The demand for ES is a crucial factor in ES valuation. Many studies are contested because they do not include aspects of supply and demand (and substitution) in the valuation methods. Through screening of policy objectives and investments on measures, we will be able to calculate marginal costs to reach current and future environmental objectives. Valuation functions could be developed that reckon with marginal benefits in respect to distance to target. The potential supply of ES by (new) ecological infrastructures depends on several factors such as the hydro geomorphic setting and spatial configuration of ecological infrastructure, local design (e.g. micro topography), management of hydrological regimes, the vegetation type (succession stage) and management strategy.

The project could for example provide planning tools on different scales, CBA-assessment tools, nature development guidelines, advocate and promote ecological engineering measures, provide public support for nature development and justify associated subsidies, research and policy recommendations improve environmental impact assessments by including the ES component, inclusion of ES in environmental liability, etc… 
This rationale and valorisation objectives will be further elaborated and implemented in the final proposal for a Strategic Basic Research project, funded by the Flemish Institute for Science and Technology. 

SUDEM- CLI - Impact of climate change on river hydrology and ecology: A case study for interdisciplinary policy oriented research
·         Type of project: Cluster project (clustering expertise and networking)
·         Financial support: Belgian Science Policy Office – Science for a Sustainable Development (BELSPO -SSD)
·         Coordinator: Ecosystem management Research Group – University of Antwerp
·         Partners: 1) Hydraulics Lab, Civil engineering -  University of Leuven 2) Institut d'Astronomie et de Géophysique Georges Lemaître,  
          Université  catholique de Louvain
·         Start – end : 01/03/2009 – 01/09/2010
·         Contact:

The impact of climate change on river hydrology and ecology is a subject that receives increasing attention and has strong implication for hydrological, ecological, economic and social policy. Because climate change affects such wide variety of disciplines, pursuing research in this field requires an interdisciplinary approach. This need to simultaneously understand and project the climate change, and to project and effectively deal with its impacts on the present and future aquatic ecosystem, presents a great challenge to the global research community .

While it is important to understand sources and magnitudes of climate change uncertainty, there is also need to understand how and in what form policy makers can deal with uncertainties. The question arising here is how to address in both communication and decision making the uncertainties associated with regional climate change projections.

The aim of this research is bringing together key experts from the climatological, hydrological and ecological research communities, as well as water managers and policy makers, in order to improve the decision making regarding the impact of climate change on aquatic and floodplain ecosystems. The first aim is to discuss relevant research issues in an open, interdisciplinary team. The focus on a case study “Grote Nete” will allow us to adapt these relevant issues, while focusing on the combined information from climate projections.

A series of workshops (four workshops) aims bringing together all sectors (climatologists, hydrologists / water engineers, biologists / ecologists and policy makers). Also hydro-meteorologists, sociologists and economists collaborating in the ongoing ADAPT and CCI-HYDR projects are invited to take part of these workshops and put their expertise in the general discussion around climate change and environmental friendly adaptation measures with specific focus on the case study. The objectives of these workshops are:

Take stock of what is known in pertinent fields and identify the connections between them;
Foster communication across the disciplinary and academic lines that divide us so as to push forward the research to an efficient and fruitful ways;
Based on the case study specific focus, delineate the state-of-the-art from which we then can develop both a research and action agenda within the context of climate change in belgium, with a view on assessing other impacted sectors;
Asses the impact of climate change on the aquatic river valley and floodplains biodiversity;
Integration of technical outcomes in subbasin management policy and plans.
Climatologic research is very important for climate prediction, since knowledge of climate, including its statistical structure in space and time, is of importance to the environment. Only a modest change in the average of temperature or precipitation may imply changes in the statistical distribution of extremes and its consequences on the ecosystem. One of the variables of main interest is the chemical river water quality. It is a function of the chemical load applied to the river, the water temperature, and the volume of flow. Changes in the intensity, duration and frequency of rainfall events can alter paved runoff contribution, nutrient leaching and the occurrence of sewage overflow events. Therefore changes in river flows may alter the oxygen levels, organic pollutant and nutrient loads which are primary factors for species composition and biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems (especially fish population). Furthermore, altered flood regimes by changes in river flow regimes can also have impacts on the species composition and biodiversity of both riverine and riparian (floodplain) habitats.
The research will focus on the case study of “Grote Nete & Grote Laak”. This will allow us to cover relevant issues regarding the environmental impact of Climate change induced changes in river hydrology. The case study will also allow a certain focus. Both in terms of management options as for elements at stake (ecosystem types - vegetation types). The Grote Nete case raises awareness on several cross-policy challenges for water managers, nature development/conservation organisations, waste water treatment agencies which need strong interdisciplinary cooperation among  hydrologists, ecologists and climatologists. 

·         Type of project: Strategic Basic Research Project
·         Financial support: Institute for Science and Technology  (IWT)
·         Coordinator: University of Ghent
-        Partners:  1) Universiteit Gent, Afdeling Mobiliteit en Ruimtelijke Planning 2) Universiteit Gent, Vakgroep Geografie 3) Katholieke
         Universiteit  Leuven, Afdeling Bos, Natuur en Landschap 4) Universiteit Antwerpen, Onderzoeksgroep Ecosysteembeheer 5) V rije Universiteit 
         Amsterdam, Instituut voor Milieuvraagstukken 6) Hogeschool Gent, Departement Biowetenschappen en Landschapsarchitectuur 7) Omgeving 
         (consultancy agency)
·        Start – end : 01/03/2009 – 01/09/2010
·        Contact:

Abstraction of the success of mitigating short term measures, climate change will anyhow influence the way in which Flemish society organises its use of land and space. Instead of closing our eyes, it is time to develop strategies to anticipate to possible effects of climate change, or – put in other words – to assess new investments in spatial development and to investigate how to make them climate proof so they can withstand the effects of climate change.
The scientific objectives of the research project can be defined as
-          a qualitative exploration through research by design of possible planning concepts for a more adaptive approach of changes in spatial
           structures as a result of climate change;
-          a scientific evaluation and appreciation of existing planning policy instruments and public governance mechanisms in relation to the
           implementation of spatial adaptation strategies in relation to climate change.
In the project design, six major work packages are defined besides the co-ordination of the research project. Work package 1 will assess the spatial impact of climate change in Flanders for different climate change scenarios. Work packages 2, 3 and 4 will assess, at the same macro scale of Flanders, the geographically differentiated impact of the climate change effects on different spatial (sub)structures. The findings of the first four work packages are gathered in two integrated planning cases in work package 5, one for the coastal zone in Flanders and one for the more land inward region of the Kempen. Finally, work package 6 formulates policy recommendations on spatial adaptation strategies in relation to climate change, in particular at the meso (regional/provincial) and the micro (local) level.
ECOBE investigates how changes in climate could affect the current spatial nature structures in the Flemish Region.
The effects of climate change on the spatial nature structures will alter ecosystems and the functions they provide. The importance of ecosystems within the nature spatial structures might as well increase due to climate change (regulation of hydrological extremes, cooling effect of forests etc..). Spatial nature structures are in primary the result of abiotic factors and climate. Secondly they are influenced, shaped and manipulated by anthropogenic factors. To assess the impact of climate change on spatial nature structures, we need to identify stressors for specific habitats/ecosystems that can be related to climate change; The magnitude of change is thus dependent on the climate and the surrounding spatial landscape structure and functions. Using this model and the output of the climate model, predictions are made on the potential nature structure for the climate scenarios. The consequences of these predictions are analysed. More specifically we look at consequences for the environment and the relation to human well-being. Starting from the concept of ecosystem services (Millenium ecosystem assessment, 2005). Secondly we will investigate how adaptation measures of the spatial nature structures could help in mitigating the effects of climate change on both biodiversity and human well-being. Ecosystem based land-use planning is considered as an important measure to increase resilience against flooding, droughts and associated water quality problems. Current spatial nature patterns are the result of spatial planning and various protection measures on national and international level. Their delineation is often driven by biodiveristy values and not by functional relations to the environment. The importance of ecosystems in reducing the occurrence of undesirable environmental phenomena (flooding, anoxia, eutrophication, erosion etc…) depends on the characteristics of a landscape and the existence of efficient structures that are capable to assimilate these perturbations. These phenomena are to some extent mitigated in magnitude, frequency, recovery time and scale by ecosystem functioning. Finally we formulate recommendations on:
A)     Adaptation strategies to maintain and enhance biodiversity values under a changing climate (What management is needed to maintain current/
         biodiversity values?)
B)     adaptation strategies to enhance functionality of nature structures (What structures are needed to assimilate future hydrological extremes? Can
         landcover structures influence micro climate? Can landcover management decrease water shortages?) 

Economic Valuation of Nature Landscapes For Cost-Benefit Assessments Of Nature Compensation Projects (including EU Habitat and Bird    
Directive Compensation Projects)
·         Type of project: Applied Scientific Research Project
·         Financial support: Administration for the environment, nature and energy – Department Environmental Economy
·         Coordinator: Flemish Institute For Technological Research (VITO)
·         Partners: 1) Ecosystem management Research Group – University of Antwerp 2) VU  University of Amsterdam – Institute for Environmental
·         Start – end : 01/06/2008 – 31/11/2009 (18 months)
·         Contact:

The Flemish Government relies increasingly on economic assessment frameworks for the deliberation and execution of their policy. For this, accurate estimates of costs and benefits are crucial. This also applies to the Flemish environmental policy. The cell environmental economics of the administration for the environment, nature and energy has the task to support the research on these economic assessment tools and attract expertise in the field of environmental economics. In 2006 a standardized methodology was elaborated for social cost-benefit assessment (SCBA) for large infrastructure projects. This standardized methodology enables a comparable and transparent application of SCBA. On a number of aspects, this methodology improved the current practices (e.g. handling externalities on the environment).

External impacts on nature and landscapes were considered only qualitatively. The most important reason for this was the lack of usable and reliable figures. A SCBA remains a quantitative instrument where only the final balance of cost and benefit is important. In practice, non quantified negative impacts have a substantial risk of being ignored in the final decision making process. 

The cell Environmental economics aims to fill in the gaps in the standardized methodology for SCBA, by developing valuation functions for the effects on nature landscapes that have scientific underpinning. These functions can allow that external effects on nature landscapes can be compared on an equal monetary basis as other costs and benefits in infrastructure projects. Important aspect is that also changes in quality of nature landscapes can be valued.

The methodology allows estimating the costs and benefits of changes in nature landscapes due to infrastructure projects in a consistent manner. These benefits depend on the goods and services that are provided and how they are values by society.

The quantification functions for regulating services are built on the current state of knowledge and data-availability. A balance has been found between general applicability and the scientific complexity of underlying processes. These functions can be improved in the future when new scientific insights emerge and /or better data is available.  The regulating services that were included are: Nutrient removal and retention (N en P), Climate regulation through carbon sequestration, Improvement of air quality through interception of pollutants (esp. PM10), Noise reduction by vegetation, Pollination and Water retention. Specific areas can deliver additional regulating services with often very significant benefits, such as erosion control, nursery functions, flood regulation etc… but require more advanced assessment tools then available for most SCBA assessments.

For recreational and transfer value a single valuation function was developed that estimates the willingness to pay for additional nature by households and for different variables (e.g. distance to nature, nature type, income etc…). The function is based on a web-based choice experiment that was returned by 3000 respondents, of which 2000 were valid for statistical processing. The function is valid on the level of planning alternatives or large scale development projects (> 10 ha) and not on the level of parcels.

Through the specific Flemish context study, the cell environmental economics hopes to reach a scientific consensus on the valuation of nature landscapes. In addition the cell environmental economics wishes to promote the use of economical assessment in environmental policy.  

Ecosystem Services in Flanders: A new challenge for nature conservation?
·         Type of project: Applied Scientific Research Project
·         Financial support: Agency for Nature and Forest (ANB)
·         Coordinator: Ecosystem management Research Group – University of Antwerp
·         Partners: 1) Flemish Institute for Nature and Forest Research (INBO) 
·         Start – end : 01/01/2009 – 31/06/2010 (24 months)
·         Contact:

This project aims to introduce the concept of Ecosystem Services to a broad range of policy makers and organizations.  The ecosystem services approach was used to determine EU-conservation goals for the Scheldt estuary, and was the basis for the cost-benefit analysis of the SIGMA-plan, which integrates flood protection, accessibility and ecology in the Scheldt estuary. Despite these examples, the concept of ecosystem services is not well known within the Flemish context. In fact, the concept has potential to provide a broader societal support to nature conservation and restoration in Flanders. The ecosystem services concept clarifies that nature conservation and restoration are no marginal phenomena with a limited societal relevance, but that further degradation of natural capital will demand more investments to compensate for the loss in ecosystem services, which has an economical impact on society as a whole.

The evaluation and description of ecosystem services allows to make fact-based choices to obtain a sustainable development. To introduce this approach in Flanders, more knowledge and insight into ecosystem services is urgently needed on a Flemish scale. This project is the first step in this introduction.

The study consists of two parts:

Part one is a general analysis on what ecosystem services are important in Flanders, and what their state is. This will be a general analysis with a spatial component.

Part two will analyse a existing conservation or restoration projects and emphasize how the concept of ecosystem service can improve the planning as well as communication on restoration projects, and how the project can be used to promote the ecosystem service concept. 
Integration of ecology, sociology and economics in water policy by means of a policy support system
·         Type of project: Special Research Fund – Interdisciplinary Research
·         Financial support: University of Antwerp
·         Promotors: Prof. Dr. P.Meire, Prof. Dr. I.Loots and Prof. Dr. A.Verbruggen
·         Coordinator: Ecosystem management Research Group – University of Antwerp
·         Start – end : 01/10/2008 – 30/09/2012 (48 months)
·         Contact:

Within a catchment many activities take place that influence the water system. Different sectors and claim space, water and various ecosystem services. Because of their limited area, amount or carrying capacity decisions have to be to which claims receive priority. These claims need to be situated within the eco-physical reality of the catchment. Because of a lack of knowledge, spatial planning and policy many water systems have been deteriorated. As a result economical and ecological functions are threatened with all social results. Integrated catchment management is a methodology that tries to find systems and solutions to these problems.  The integrated catchment management is in need of policy support systems that can capture the complexity of the different relations between human society and ecosystems.
Within this PhD a model will be developed that supports the development of policy scenarios on the basis of eco-physical, social and economic data with special attention to ecosystem services. Different river functions will be set as well possible measures that can ensure the sustainable exploitation of these functions. Different function and measure maps will be generated based on fuzzy set rules. The model will evaluate the different demands, functions and possible measures and generate maps with optimal geographic implementation of these. A multi-stakeholder platform of future users will assist in the development of the different maps and model and ensure the quality and applicability of the results.