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ESMERALDA Report Summary

Project ID: 642007
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.5.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ESMERALDA (Enhancing ecoSysteM sERvices mApping for poLicy and Decision mAking)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2016-07-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services (ES) are core to the EU Biodiversity (BD) Strategy. They are essential if we are to make informed decisions. Action 5 sets the requirement for an EU-wide knowledge base designed to be: a primary data source for developing Europe’s green infrastructure; resource to identify areas for ecosystem restoration; and, a baseline against which the goal of ‘no net loss of BD and ES’ can be evaluated. In addition, robust and reliable data of ecosystems and ecosystem services collected at multiple scales are also important for the development and implementation of related policies on water, climate, agriculture, forest, and regional planning.

In response to these requirements, ESMERALDA (Enhancing ecoSysteM sERvices mApping for poLicy and Decision mAking) aims to deliver a ‘flexible methodology’ to provide the building blocks for national, pan-European and regional assessments. The work will ensure the timely delivery of EU member states in relation to Action 5 of the BD Strategy, supporting the needs of assessments in, for example, planning, agriculture, climate, water and nature policy. This methodology builds on existing ES projects and databases (e.g. the MAES Working Group, MESEU, OpenNESS, OPERAs, national studies), the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), TEEB and IPBES. ESMERALDA has, in its first phase, identified relevant stakeholders and took stock of their requirements at EU, national and regional levels.

The objective of ESMERALDA is to share experience through an active process of dialogue and knowledge co-creation that will enable member state stakeholders to achieve the Action 5 aims. Appropriate mapping and assessment approaches integrate biophysical, social and economic assessment techniques. Flexibility will be achieved by the creation of a tiered methodology that will encompass both simple (Tier 1) and more complex (Tier 3) approaches. The work exploits expert- and land cover-based methods, existing ES indicator data and more complex ES models. As a result, the outcomes will be applicable in different contexts. The strength of the ESMERALDA consortium lies in its ability to make solutions for mapping and assessment problems available to stakeholders from all EU member states from the beginning of the project, because our expertise allows us to build on existing research projects, knowledge and data sharing systems.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

ESMERALDA is a Supporting and Coordination Action aiming at helping EU member states to fulfil their obligations under the EU Biodiversity Strategy Target 2, Action 5. In order to fulfil these tasks, the project is organised in four key activity phases of which the first two “Networking and stakeholder involvement” as well as “Developing flexible tools for mapping and assessment” have successfully been started and carried out during the first 18 months of the project. The third phase aims at testing the identified set of tools at multiple scales for multiple users is harnessing results from the first two phases by applications in practical ecosystem services mapping and assessment case studies. In the final phase, ESMERALDA aims at developing and providing guidance and methodologies for tailored solutions for policy implementation of ecosystem services mapping and assessment.

Main results achieved so far include the successful identification of Action 5-relevant stakeholders across Europe, the creation of respective stakeholder support groups in all EU MS and the work on methods and data bases relevant for ecosystem services mapping and assessment. Methods and data bases include conceptual developments such as WP3 and WP4 work on identifying and systematising various European mapping and assessment methods, WP4 conceptual work on the ecosystem services classification scheme CICES as part of an integrated assessment framework, WP5 work on the identification and selection of suitable case studies and WP6 very efficient promotion of ESMERALDA and dissemination of project outcomes (see WP1 aims at coordinating at integrating the outcomes of the different WPs, their tasks and Deliverables.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The successful identification of Action 5-relevant stakeholders in all 28 EU member states, Switzerland, Norway, Israel and several EU enlargement countries is a huge progress in the process of implementing Action 5 in Europe. Enlarging the consortium to include potentially all EU member states in a single project is a remarkable achievement in a time where the European project is facing severe difficulties. It shows that research and innovation can bring people, institutes and countries together to work on common set of goals. Thus ESMERALDA does not only consider the 20 countries that directly take part in the project, but has already an established cross-European network of ecosystem service mapping and assessment developers and users. This network will not only be used during the following phases of ESMERALDA (where a respective consortium enlargement and a specific consideration of EU outermost regions and marine areas are envisaged), but will also be available beyond the duration and activity of the project. Together with the development of the 'flexible methodology for mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services' and the education of respective experts and stakeholders in related fields, ESMERALDA will have (and already has) significant impact on the implementation of the Biodiversity Strategy and other related European policies, the society, ecosystem-based businesses and the development of nature-based solutions for sustainable resource management.

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