The concept of ecosystem services has made its way into societal, scientific and political debates over the course of the last couple of years. Due to a unique perspective, it is able to shed light on issues of protection, sustainable use and development of nature and the environment. The ecosystem services approach places a focus on nature’s contribution to human well-being. The concept aims to create an enhanced basis for the protection and/or sustainable use of nature and the environment by collecting, evaluating and integrating ecosystem services into policy practice. By focusing on the social and economic benefits of ecosystem services for humans, the concept fortifies exchanges across disciplines and society as a whole, encouraging cooperative alliances that build on this principle. To us, this interdisciplinary collaboration is the key prerequisite for the necessary transformations that must be made to enable the protection and sustainable use of our natural resources.
Large-scale studies like the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment or TEEB (i.e. Natural Capital Germany – TEEB-DE) have taken up this concept and, quite successfully, introduced it to the political arena. The IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) has recently established an office in Germany and a number of political strategy papers are already referring to ecosystem services explicitly. Nevertheless, there remains some ground to be covered in its practical application for example in the agrarian and forest industries, where the ecosystem service approach finds itself in its early stages. It is therefore especially important to examine if and under which circumstances the concept is indeed suitable for the facilitation of a more sustainable use of natural resources and greater protection of biodiversity. This means that the network will also include a critical view in its analysis of the concept of ecosystem services in order to better grasp its potentials and limitations. These may include, for example, challenges during the implementation process in the political-administrative realm (i.e. legal delimitations).
ESP-DE wants to be an active, developing platform integrating different ES-related activities from science, policy and practice and projects such as the Natural Capital Germany – TEEB-DE and the European MAES initiative.
Motivation for establishing ESP-DE
Specifically for the implementation of the ES concept into policy and society it seems to be important to consider the specific social-cultural context and the national institutional setting.
Thus, we think to build up real community of practice the national level/ a national network is required.
Furthermore, we want to make the German ES research more visible, and we want to bundle activities to be better prepare for dissemination of our results specifically into policy and practice.
Objectives of ESP-DE
- Creating a stronger visibility of ecosystem services’ pertinence for society;
- Expanding the expertise on ecosystem services and disseminating this knowledge to the appropriate target groups in order to facilitate the concept’s application in research, teaching and practice;
- Encouraging the intensive exchange of experience and knowledge within the network of partners;
- Providing a platform for the joint development of innovative approaches for ecosystem service management, particularly with regards to the political/administrative realm (Community of Practice); and
- Promoting private commitment and entrepreneurial responsibility concerning ecosystem services.