Ecosystem-functioning approaches for assessing and managing ecosystem services

Date: 20 June 2018

Venue: University of Antwerp - Campus Drie Eiken, R3 - Universiteitsplein 1 - 2610 Antwerpen-Wilrijk (route: UAntwerpen, Campus Drie Eiken)

Time: 3:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Department of Biology

PhD candidate: Katrien Van der Biest

Principal investigator: Patrick Meire

Short description: PhD defence Katrien Van der Biest - Faculty of Science, Department of Biology


The concept of ecosystem services has gained increasing attention in the past decades because it makes the benefits that nature provides to humans more tangible. The implementation of ecosystem services in environmental management and spatial planning, however, is challenged by contradicting requirements for ecosystem services assessment tools. Decision-makers need user-friendly and transparent tools, but they should also be accurate and account for the complexity of ecosystem functioning that underpins the production of ecosystem services. As a first step in this research, the accuracy of one of the most commonly used techniques to map ecosystem services, i.e. land use as a single indicator, was tested. The precision of this approach appeared to be too low, underpinning the need for tools based on ecological understanding. This research aims to develop practical methodologies to improve the consideration of ecosystem functioning in ecosystem services assessments. They respond to shortcomings at multiple levels of environmental management (spatial planning, local management and impact assessments), but have in common that they support the development of multifunctional landscapes and ecosystem-based alternatives and that they facilitate  stakeholder involvement. First, the capacity of Bayesian networks for comprehensive ecosystem services assessments and ecosystem services optimization was explored. Next, two novel process-based approaches were developed (1) to align ecosystem services with biodiversity in early, more strategic stages of spatial planning and (2) to integrate ecosystem services into impact assessments. Several of the methodologies were applied to support decision-making processes in different cases in Flanders.