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Belgium Ecossystem Services : a new vision for society-nature interaction (BEES)

Research project SD/CL/005 (Research action SD)

Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  MEIRE Patrick - Universiteit Antwerpen (UA)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  • Dr.  TURKELBOOM Francis - Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek (INATBOS)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  • Prof. dr.  DE MEESTER Luc - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  • Prof. dr.  PEETERS Alain - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  • M.  ZACCAI Edwin - Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012
  •   LIEKENS Inge - Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2009-31/1/2012

Description :


Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits humans derive from ecosystems. Since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) many initiatives were taken to further develop this concept theoretically and to make it operational in daily policy. In Belgium there is an urgent need to gain more insight into local ES. A crucial step is to bring together existing knowledge and expertise to inventory knowledge on the many important ES they deliver (provisioning services, such as fish, shellfish, reed,...; regulating services, such as water regulation and water purification,..; supporting services, such as primary production, nutrient cycling,.. .; and cultural services, such as recreation).

The ecosystem services concept has an enormous potential to reach a sustainable management of ours open space and nature landscapes. Finding a balance between eco- and anthropo-centric values has been always a difficult exercise. The ecosystem services concept shows that this contrast is only an appearance. Considering nature and landscapes as producers of ecosystem services is a promising concept which helps to valuate more the nature and the landscapes. The continued degradation of ecosystems may have important economic and social impacts. The systematic replacement of “free” ecosystem services by expensive technical solutions leads to a larger organisational and financial cost for the society. The ecosystem services concept offers a unique framework where social, economic and environmental aspects can be integrated. Moreover the economic valuation of ecosystem services offers clearly possibilities to evaluate the social and economic values of ecosystems and in this this way to play a role in policy making. Building such process of valuation of ecosystem services is only possible by using the present basic knowledge. Both the social demand for ecosystem services as the ecological mechanisms which provide those services, are subject to a large variability and heterogeneity.

Project description

A. Bring together key scientists, policy makers and organizations that are either already involved with ES-research or who might catalyze the ES-research.
B. Make an inventory on the ES expertise (who’s doing what).
C. To get a state of the art of ecosystem service related research in Belgium and to bring forward a methodology that could be used as a basis for an ecosystem assessment of Belgium.
D. Evaluate the opportunity to establish a “virtual” research institute on ES research in Belgium, covering the necessary expertise to contribute to large international research initiatives.
E. Formulate recommendations for scientific programs and policy objectives.


This project consists mainly of workshops covering different aspects of Ecosystems Services Research. The workshops are in English and at least one key researcher from abroad, specialized in that topic, will be invited to give a key note speech The format of the workshop (presentations, debate, brainstorming sessions) can vary, depending on the objectives of the workshop. After the workshop, the coordinator will make a text summarizing the workshop as a chapter for a report. This chapter will be distributed to all participants who contributed to the workshop and will be co-authored by them. It is very likely that the workshops will also lead to more intense bilateral communications with experts from outside the project consortium.
In First stance we make an inventory of existing expertise. Past and present projects that are related to Ecosystem services are included in the BioBel research database. By use of this inventory, we are capable to invite all relevant actors at a series of workshops that deal with specific aspects on ES-research.

1. A first workshop covers the inventory outcome and aims to identify which ES need to be prioritized n the Belgian context. Indirectly this determined which ecosystems and processes have research priority for research and monitoring of ES.

2. The second workshop covers the state of art in terms of methods to assess the variability and heterogeneity of ES-delivery on different scales. ES are delivered by complex interactions, processes and mechanisms that occur on different spatial scales and temporal dimensions (seconds, hours, days, and years). In addition, the demand for ES is also dependent on spatial and temporal dimensions. Knowledge on this subject is crucial to determine the quantity and timing of effective ES-delivery.

3. The third workshop has a specific focus on the role of biodiversity on the generation of ES. Biodiversity in all its aspects (habitat-diversity, abiotic diversity, species etc…) has a positive effect on ES. Through which mechanisms does biodiversity promote ES, what are the most crucial aspects and how to evaluate biodiversity in the ES-context?

4. The fourth workshop deals with valuation methods for ES. Which methods are most suitable and how do we deal with spatial and temporal aspects in the valuation of ES? How do we value biodiversity and the option value of potential ES?

5. The fifth workshop brings the attention to the impact of international trade of ES. Mostly unaware, we are all intensive users of ES that procure from elsewhere. Also, we are exporting certain ES to other nations. What is the impact and sustainability of these ES-flows?

6. The sixth workshop aims to bridge the gaps between ES-research and policy development. What research is needed and for what policy? How can ES contribute to reaching various policy objectives and challenges? Which institutional, economic and juridical barriers need to be overcome in order to implement the ES-concepts in the different policy domains?

A final symposium will be elaborated in close cooperation with the funding agency (BELSPO) and has the objective to communicate the outcome of the project to a broad public (non experts, policy makers, NGO’s etc.).

Interaction between the different partners

It is our profound belief that advances on ES research cannot only depend on large-scale initiatives and a top-down knowledge transfer. Like ecosystem services, there are scaling issues involved. The ecosystems in our region might differ from those in other regions, both in terms of ecological aspects as from a socio-economical viewpoint. To put Belgian research on ecosystem services on the international map, there is a need to structure and focus the research initiatives within the Belgian context. Within this cluster this will be put into practice since all WP are strongly linked and interdependent

Expected outcomes

The cluster brings together several key players in the field, covering both academics and institutions, and natural and human sciences. As it is impossible to include all relevant partners in the proposal several workshops will be organised to be able to reach all relevant actors. In this way, the cluster will stimulate the dialogue and exchange of ideas between scientists of human sciences (economist, sociologists, lawyers) and natural sciences (ecologists, environmentalists, agronomists), civil servants, environmental NGOs, international organisations and the private sector. It will help Belgian scientists to get an international authority in this research field and to prepare European research projects. As leading foreign scientists will be invited to workshops, it will be an opportunity for Belgian researchers to discuss their ideas with them and to propose common research projects.
Finally, as this cluster is also linked to the dedicated research projects that will be granted under call 5 of SSD this should allow us to bring forward a new vision on a truly integrated approach of the concept of ecosystem services and the possibilities to incorporate this concept in policy and management.
Every workshop will result in a chapter of the report/book on “Ecosystem assessment in Belgium”, the outcome of this project. To disseminate the results, the cluster will organise a final symposium in cooperation with BELSPO.



UA has vast experience with work on ES. The restoration project of the Scheldt estuary is based on research done by UA. The rationale of this restoration project was the optimization of ES of the estuary. The economic valuation of this project was done by VITO and both research groups have worked together in several projects on ES. KUL has a long standing reputation in research on the relation between diversity and functioning. The INBO is responsible for the reporting of the state of the nature in Flanders and has extensive databases on all biota. INBO has also experience with societal aspects of ES. DEMNA is the Walloon counterpart of INBO. The ULB partner carries out multidisciplinary studies on various aspects of environmental policies and strategies concerning sustainable development. It deals with the design and evaluation of these policies and actions, as well as their relationships with the technical, socio-economic or philosophical context of sustainable development. KBIN carries out scientific research in the area of the natural sciences, mainly concerned with the study of evolution, diversity, and ecosystems. RHEA carries out consultancy concerning natural resources, human environment and agronomy.

Contact information

Prof. Dr. Patrick Meire
University of Antwerp – Campus Drie Eiken
Department of Biology
Ecosystem management research group (ECOBE)
Universiteitsplein 1, building C
BE-2610 Antwerpen
Tel.: + 32 (0)3 265 2274
Fax: + 32 (0)3 265 2271

Inge Liekens
VITO NV – Flemish Institute for Technological Research
Boeretang 200
BE – 2400 Mol
Tel: 014 33 58 86

Dr. Francis Turkelboom
Research Group Ecosystem Services
Own Capital of the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (EV-INBO)
Kliniekstraat 25, 1070 Brussel
Tel: +(032) 02 558 18 76
Fax: +(32) 02 558 18 05

Prof. Dr. Luc De Meester
Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Catholic University of Leuven (KUL)
Charles Deberiotstraat 32 - bus 2439, 3000 Leuven
Tel: +32 16 323708 of +32 16 323966
Fax: +32 16 324575

Dr. Tom Bauler / Prof. Dr. Erwin Zaccaï
Institut de Gestion de l’Environnement et d’Aménagement du Territoire
Centre d’Etudes du Développement Durable
Tel.: +32 (0)2 650 49 24
Fax: +32 (0)2 650 43 12

Dr. Hendrik Segers
Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen (KBIN)
Vautierstraat 29
1000 Brussel

Prof. Dr. Ir. Alain Peeters
Natural Resources Human Environment and Agronomy (RHEA)
Rue des Anciens Combattants 13
1450 Gentinnes
Tel.: 0475 905 914
Fax: 071 87 98 51

Dr Ir Vincent Brahy
Coordinateur de la Cellule Etat de l'Environnement wallon
Direction de l'Etat Environnemental
Département de l’Etude du Milieu naturel et agricole
DGARNE - Service Public de Wallonie
15, Avenue Prince de Liège
5100 Jambes (Namur)

Documentation :

BElgium Ecosystem Services : a new vision for society-nature interactions : final report  Meire, Patrick - Liekens, Inge - Turkelboom, Francis ... et al  Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2012 (SP2526)
[To download

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