The significance of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems and the services they deliver has increasingly been acknowledged and fostered by policy initiatives, such as the EU Biodiversity Strategies 2020 and 2030, the Greeln Deal, IPBES, IPCC, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Importantly, research has created a knowledge base to better understand human-nature interactions at the base of ecosystem services (ES) supply. The EU initiative on Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) has provided the conceptual, methodological and data base for comprehensive analyses that produce information that can be harnessed to support protection, restoration and sustainable as well as climate-neutral use of ecosystems and their services in the EU by 2030.
In an effort to improve the uptake of ES-related scientific outcomes by decision-makers in business and in policy, the EU Horizon project SELINA will integrate the different MAES components (mapping of ecosystem types, condition, and services, as well as ecosystem accounting), link them to specific EU biodiversity policies, and provide actionable, fit-for-purpose recommendations in the form of a Compendium of Guidance suitable for different stakeholders.
"With the SELINA project, we now have the appropriate framework to combine findings from science on ecosystems and their services and then make them specifically usable to support sustainable decisions in the public and private sectors," explains Prof. Dr. Benjamin Burkhard from Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, who is coordinating the project.
SELINA (Science for Evidence-based and sustainabLe decisIons about NAtural capital) has been awarded 13 million euros in EU funding to achieve this ambitious goal and the project is expected to run for five years. With a consortium of 50 partners from all 27 EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland, Israel and the United Kingdom, it offers an unprecedented opportunity for international cooperation and transdisciplinary knowledge-sharing.
The project’s official Kick-off Meeting was held in Hannover from September 14 to 17, 2022, and it brought together leading experts on biodiversity and ecosystem science, ecosystem services and accounting, as well as experts on business- and policy-related decision making and science-policy-business interfaces from related actions.
For more information on the SELINA project, visit www.project-selina.eu.
A three-day workshop in Sofia brought together experts and stakeholders to discuss seeds of transformative change in the context of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
From 27 to 31 March 2023, nearly 120 experts and key stakeholders from public and private sectors gathered together for a workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, to deliberate the enabling factors and barriers to implementing biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision making processes. The attendees of the meeting were representing various business, government, civil society, and science sectors and were coming from all 27 EU member states, Israel, Norway, Switzerland and North Macedonia.
The workshop was organised within the framework of the SELINA collaborative project, which is funded under the EU Horizon programme and contributes to reshaping decision-making processes within the public and private sectors by improving the uptake of biodiversity, ecosystem conditions, and ecosystem services information. It was the first one in a series of interactive workshops planned within the project to support the constant flow of information, joint creation and mutual exchange of knowledge.
What are the barriers and enabling factors when it comes to implementing biodiversity and ecosystem services indicators in decision making?
SELINA workshop participants pointed as the most common barriers resistance to change and scepticism, as well as lack of capacity, collaboration, regulations, knowledge, accurate data, common language, and political will.
Workshop attendees also identified a number of enabling factors that could in turn help to implement biodiversity and ecosystem services and related indicators in decision-making processes. They mentioned communication, stakeholder engagement, data availability, EU regulations, synergies and collaboration as possible drivers for successful implementation. Participants recognised SELINA as an initiative that can help to facilitate the mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe especially through providing guidance and promoting good examples and practices.
The SELINA project will in fact provide guidance through its key output – the Compendium of Guidance (CoG) that is planned to serve public and private decision makers. The CoG will be developed through a co-creation process with experts and stakeholders that started already in Sofia, where workshop participants provided the first round of input into the structure and the potential content of the document. They were consulted about the needs, interests and desires they have for the CoG and also deliberated how the CoG could translate the technical advancements of the project into user-friendly guidance products to support decision-making needs and in what forms.
Exploring local ecosystems and an urban heat island effect demonstration
To get hands-on experience with one of the altogether 15 SELINA's demonstration projects and to have the chance to explore local ecosystems, participants took a field trip around Sofia. They got engaged in an urban field demonstration by Macroplan, Bulgaria, who performed a drone-based mapping exercise of the spatial distribution of land surface temperatures and made an assessment of the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island was presented as one of the most significant examples of the impact of cities on the environment and human health.
Participants then visited the Botanical Garden of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences that maintains the richest collection of plants in Bulgaria including over 4 500 types and forms of plants, which represent over 1% of the variety of higher plants in the world. The public function of the Garden is related to the issues of exploration and conservation of biodiversity and the dissemination of knowledge about it among the broadest public strata, with a view to building a relationship to the sustainable management of biodiversity. The field trip finished with a visit to a local nature site where participants had the opportunity to explore local ecosystems and got to know the biodiversity of Vitosha, one of the first nature parks in Bulgaria and on the Balkan Peninsula.
“The first SELINA workshop is an important milestone for the project. Within these three days, we have successfully sowed the seeds of change. Now we want to make them grow through continued collaboration and collective action towards ensuring evidence-based decision-making that supports the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of our environment,” shared the coordinator of SELINA, Prof. Dr. Benjamin Burkhard from Leibniz University Hannover, Germany.
The next SELINA workshop will be held in Madrid in October 2023.
EU HORIZON project SELINA shows real-world examples of how knowledge on biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services can be used to support evidence-based public and private decision-making.
The SELINA project achieved a significant milestone with the official launch of its Demonstration Projects (DPs), which was held online on 7 June 2023. Hosted online by Capitals Coalition (Netherlands) and the University of Trento (Italy), the meeting attracted over 90 participants including SELINA consortium members and representatives of public institutions and private companies associated with the DPs. They had the opportunity to delve into the progress of each of the 15 projects and gain insight into their future plans.
The DPs are real-world innovative examples of how knowledge on biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services can be used to support evidence-based public and private decision-making processes. The 15 DPs that will be studied within SELINA come from 12 countries - Spain, Lithuania, Italy, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Latvia, Bulgaria, Norway, Malta, Finland, and the Netherlands.
The DPs kick-off meeting aimed to showcase the goals and advancements of the 15 public and private DPs that have been divided into four clusters: i) Agriculture and water; ii) Forestry and finance; iii) Coastal and marine; iv) Spatial planning. Potential synergies between the two SELINA working groups that study public and private DPs respectively, were also presented. A brief introduction of the Task Force of private representatives added further value to the meeting.
The meeting's outcomes and discussions yielded valuable insights for guiding future steps. Notably, an ongoing initiative is underway to develop a summary of indicators and anticipated data usage for each project. This mapping will facilitate effective collaboration and informed decision-making among the research-oriented SELINA work packages. Furthermore, the diverse DPs will gain practical insights into potential uncertainties that limit the uptake of ecosystem services evidence and strategies for overcoming them. By tackling these kinds of challenges head-on, SELINA's DPs aim to enhance overall impact and overcome common obstacles for the generation of scientific-based public and private policies.
“We were delighted to welcome almost 100 participants at the meeting that marked a pivotal moment and put the foundations of the synergies between the SELINA demonstration projects. After being presented with the potential that lies within each project, we are now positive that through effective cooperation we would facilitate the uptake and integration of ecosystem services evidence into both public and private sector decision-making processes.”, highlighted Jarumi Kato Huerta from the University of Trento which was one of the organisers of the meeting.
In conclusion, SELINA's official Demonstration Projects kick-off served as a platform to showcase achievements and goals, fostering fruitful interactions where participants actively contributed ideas on enhancing collaboration within and outside the project boundaries.
SELINA receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101060415.