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Valuation of Terrestrial Ecosystem Services in a multifunctional peri-urban space (VOTES)

Research project SD/TE/05A (Research action SD)


Persons :

  • Dr.  DENDONCKER Nicolas - Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  • Prof. dr.  FRANCOIS Louis - Université de Liège (ULG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  • Dr.  DEVILLET Guenaël - Université de Liège (ULG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  • Dr. Ir.  VAN HERZELE Ann - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012

Description :

This project is performing a Valuation Of Terrestrial Ecosystem Services in a multifunctional peri-urban space (VOTES) by taking into account the three pillars of sustainable development: economy, society, and environment. The aim and originality of the research is to do this integrated assessment in a spatially and temporally explicit way. The research is using a multi-ecosystem approach and state-of-the-art scenarios of global change,considering climate and socio-economic changes,downscaled to the context of the study area: four communes in the peri-urban belt of Brussels. A network of four expert research groups from the Flemish and French communities of Belgium constitutes the multi-disciplinary team providing complementary expertise in the fields of natural and human sciences.

Large amount of change in land use, one of the main pressures on ecosystem services and biodiversity, are projected over the coming decades (c.f. the SSD-funded MULTIMODE and EC-funded ECOCHANGE projects). This is especially the case in peri-urban areas where pressure from urban development is the highest, and in Belgium where limited land surfaces are subject to intense competition for their uses. Consequently, the size and distribution of the agricultural, semi-natural and forest ecosystems are expected to vary dramatically, hence affecting the ecosystem services they provide.

Thus, the specific research objectives are:

[1] To assess the current value of key ecosystem services in the study area and how the current relationships between ecosystem services are mediated by land use;
[2] To identify current trade-offs and synergies between ecosystem services in a spatially explicit way;
[3] To explore how the current value may change in relation to future land use change;
[4] To explore how the current trade-offs may change in relation to future changes in ecosystem services;
[5] To suggest policy instruments for including ecosystem services in decision-making processes at the European, federal and regional scale taking into account the three pillars of sustainable development and involving stakeholders and local communities.

The network will meet these objectives by developing a tightly integrated valuation framework. The social assessment identifies the owners and beneficiaries of ecological functions that actually deliver services, which are then evaluated within their social and decisional contexts. The biophysical assessment targets the mapping of ecosystem servicesand their flows, followed by the impacts assessment of habitat changes on these flows. To do so, a dynamic vegetation model (DVM) is integrated into an agent-based model (ABM) to perform simulations under three different scenarios, which depict distinct policy contexts and broader-scale socio-economic implications. The resulting land use maps will provide information on the spatial distribution of ecosystem goods and services and their change over time for each scenario. The economic assessment evaluates trade-offs between the identified key services and other land use function through costs-benefits analyses under each scenario (e.g. benefits of urbanization versus the costs of losing ecosystem services). Results of the three assessments are then integrated using stakeholder participatory techniques. Cost and benefits involved in trade-offs between various land use options are analysed and potential conflicts identified. The final aim is to find win-win-win situations – i.e. in economic, environmental and social terms – and to suggest how the developed methodology can be implemented into new or existing policy instruments, such as environmental and sustainability assessments.

To our knowledge, only the very recent study by Nelson et al. (2009, in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7(1):4-11) followed a similar approach for a case study in the USA. The VOTES project would be the first example for Europe.


Documentation :

Valuation of Terrestrial Ecosystem Services in a multifunctional peri-urban space (VOTES° : final report  Fontaine, Corentin - De Vreese, Rik - Jacquemin, Ingrid ... et al  Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2013 (SP2554)
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