The Ecosystems Knowledge and Learning Forum, held in Birmingham in February 2012, helped to identify the following learning themes to provide a focus for the activities of the Network. Many of the practical projects involved in the Network provide the knowledge and experience needed to advance these themes.
Linking areas of policy and practice
An ecosystems approach provides a basis from which to connect various areas of public policy and professional practice. This brings together different 'sectors' and professions to work towards common goals. Two areas that are being addressed within the Network are:
- The links between an ecosystems approach and spatial planning
- The ways in which nature-based projects can support the delivery of public health goals.
Examples of practical projects involved in the Network that are addressing muliple public policy agendas are the Lee Valley Ecosystem Services Approach and Local Planning and Managing Environmental Change at the Rural-Urban Fringe.
Measuring and mapping ecosystem services
Measurement and mapping of ecosystem service generation and delivery can make a significant contribution to decisions about how land and marine areas are used, managed and protected. These decisions, include for example, the formation of spatial plans, the planning and design of major infrastructure projects, and how to maximise the health benefits provided by access to nature. The process of building maps of ecosystem services helps to engage people in the application of an ecosystems approach. To explore this theme further, see the Network page on mapping ecosystem services. This page includes links to presentations and a report from a workshop on the topic held in 2012. Examples of projects involved in the Network that have been addressing this theme are: Ecosystems Interactions on the Somerset Levels and Mapping Ecosystem Services at the County Scale.
Valuing ecosystem services
This involves exploring approaches and tools to value ecosystem services, using these values in informing decisions about how land and marine areas are managed. An introduction to the valuation challenge was provided in Issue 3 of Ecosystems News, the Network's electronic newsletter. Valuing ecosystem services is a special focus for the Network in 2013, which began with a webinar on the topic in February. Future activities will be announced on the events page. To explore this theme further, see the Network page on valuing ecosystem services. Defra published a Best Practice Guide on PES in May 2013, along with an Action Plan. A separate web page has been created with more information about Payments for Ecosystem Services. Examples of projects that are involved in valuation of ecosystem services are the Keighley and Watersheddles Catchment project and the Lewes and Ouse Valley eco-nomics Group.
Classifying ecosystem services
The need to develop an understanding of classification frameworks used for ecosystem services and how they may be applied was a special focus for the Ecosystems Knowledge Network during the autumn of 2012. See the Network pages on classifying ecosystem services.
Building a data infrastructure
Access to data and information drives the application of an ecosystems approach. There is a need to bring environmental data and information together in ways that better inform decisions. People need to be more engaged in both the provision and interpretation of knowledge about the natural environment. Examples of projects involved in the Network that are bringing together diverse data and communicating it are PISCES, the Sustainable Uplands Project and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the East of England.
The following topics are vital to the application of an ecosystems approach and will be addressed by the Ecosystems Knowledge Network: Working together to apply an ecosystems approach There is a need to explore and consolidate the principles of good partnership working when applying an ecosystems approach. Understanding new concepts and language The concepts and language associated with an ecosystems approach are unfamiliar to many. There is a need for explanation of the meanings associated with new terms, and how these terms relate to those used in different areas of policy and practice.