Ibone Amezaga Arregi
Ibone Ametzaga Arregi, Doctor by the Imperial College London, is lecturer at the Department of Plant Biology and Ecology of the University of the Basque Country. Her research topics are centred on Biodiversity, mainly terrestrial ecosystems, studying the impacts, restoration, developing tools to improve their state and knowledge generation for the development of environmental policies for landscape management based, nowadays, on Ecosystems Services. She has worked at the Public University of Navarra and University of Vigo. She has supervised several PhD and MSc thesis.
The research team is within the UNESCO Chair for Sustainable Development and Environmental Education that has set itself the challenge to step up research and specialized studies on Sustainability and Environmental Education from an interdisciplinary perspective, encompassing natural and social sciences. Our working methodology involves collaboration between the world of academia, social and political stakeholders, and society in general, as all activities are aimed at contributing to the solution of real problems.
10th June 2015 – 11:00-12:00 Room 1
ECOSYSTEM SERVICES AND HUMAN WELLBEING
Ecosystem services can be defined as: the products of ecological functions or processes that directly or indirectly contribute to human well-being, or have the potential to do so in future; or, as the benefits of nature to households, communities, and economies. They represent ecological processes and resources expressed in terms of the goods and services they provide. Ecosystem services fall under the general categories of provisioning (food, water, energy), regulating (flood control, erosion prevention), cultural (recreation, spiritual value, sense of place) and supporting (nutrient cycling, oxygen).
One of the major challenges remains the optimization of the land management in such a way that ecosystem service will be provided optimally, not only according to wellbeing and human activities at (most) suitable places, but also according to optimal chemical, physical and environmental characteristics. All these factors are helpful to model future land-use needs, in addition to the energy and elemental flow across soil, water and environmental compartments.
However, there needs to be an agreement to have the best landscape management as there can be trade-offs among ecosystem services. Thus, studying the trade-offs between biodiversity, carbon storage and water flow regulation in a biosphere reserve area using Geographic Information System (GIS)-based approach showed how the inclusion of ecosystem services in conservation planning has a great potential to provide opportunities for biodiversity protection, as the non-protected natural forests, such as the mixed-oak, beech and riparian forests, are biodiversity hotspots, and they contribute to the carbon storage and water flow regulation services; however, strategies of conservation based only on specific ecosystem services may be detrimental to the biodiversity and may cause other environmental problems as pine and eucalyptus plantations contribute to carbon storage and water flow regulation but have negative effects on biodiversity and cause environmental problems.
On the other hand, it is important to quantify cultural ecosystem services (ES) and their spatial distribution in the landscape based on ecological structure and social evaluation approaches. Thus, GIS-based approach was used to estimate and map the provision of recreation and aesthetic services supplied by ecosystems in a peri-urban area. Data of two different public participation processes (frequency of visits to 25 different sites within the study area and aesthetic value of different landscape units) were used to validate the maps. A weak spatial correlation was found between aesthetic quality and recreation provision services, with an overlap of the highest values for both services only in 7.2 % of the area. Thus, decision-makers indicated that the results were considered useful to identify areas that can be targeted for improvement of landscape and recreation management.
Moreover, the ecosystem services approach has shown to help the understanding among different stakeholders. The conflict between conservation and timber production is shifting in regions such as Biscay (Basque Country) where planted forests are no longer profitable without public subsidies and environmentalist claim that public subsidies should be reoriented to the regeneration of natural forest. Based on ecosystem services an approach was designed that integrated scientific knowledge and stakeholders’ demands to provide decision-making guidelines for the development of new landscape planning strategies. Two methodologies where used: a participatory process to develop a community vision for the region’s sustainable future considering the opportunities and constrains provided by the landscape and its ecosystems and GIS. The results from the spatial analysis converged with those from the participatory process in the suitability of promoting, where possible and appropriate, natural forest ecosystems restoration. This iterative learning and decision making process is already showing its effectiveness for decision making, with concrete examples of how the results obtained with the applied approach are being included in planning and decision-making processes.