OpenNESS annual meeting reflects on four years of work
Will the OpenNESS project achieve its main aim, to help operationalize ecosystem services and natural capital, to turn the concepts into real-world applications? This was the underlying question at this year’s annual project meeting, which focused on synthesizing the results of almost four years of work. The OpenNESS project has entered its last year of operations and so this meeting brought together the results of its work on concepts and theories, policies and regulations, models and methods, and valuation of ecosystem services and natural capital.
The fundament of much of this work is a set of 27 case studies which look at the reality of implementing the rather technical or scientific concepts in physical places and concrete situations. What models work best in urban conditions? How do you involve stakeholders in agricultural settings? How do you assess values that people attach to ecosystem services in forest areas? These are some of the many questions that were addressed in the case studies.
Now it is time to bring together the results of the case studies in a synthesis process that looks at the lessons that can be learned from our experience; to offer recommendations to help others operationalize ecosystem services; and to relate the results to policy processes at local to global levels. It is too soon for a final synthesis, but some key elements that emerged from the meeting include the importance of human interaction in identifying questions to which ecosystems may provide answers, the need to consider values from many different angles, and the need to apply different methods and be flexible when repeating implementation.
The next few months will see results from the synthesis process in the form of scientific papers, policy briefs, or presentations at the final project conference in September 2016.
A number of keynote presentations and reflections from the project’s international advisory board enriched the discussions at the annual meeting. Dr Kai Chan from the University of British Columbia (Canada) gave a keynote speech about the importance of cultural ecosystem services and how relational values are key to stewardship and conservation of ecosystem services and biodiversity. Dr Davide Geneletti demonstrated how integrating ecosystem services may help fine-tune and enhance impact assessments. The International Advisory Board, impressed with the work done by OpenNESS, gave a number of recommendations in connection with the type of change that OpenNESS wants to achieve, the synthesis process, and visibility of the outcomes, including through stories based on the case studies.
The meeting was held at OpenNESS partner UFZ’s conference venue in Leipzig, Germany, from 25 to 28 April 2016, and brought together some 70 participants from all partners.