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Public Ecosystem Goods And Services from land management - Unlocking the Synergies

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PEGASUS (Public Ecosystem Goods And Services from land management - Unlocking the Synergies)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-08-31

PEGASUS (“Public Ecosystem Goods and Services: Unlocking the Synergies”) is a Horizon 2020 research project led by IEEP and involving 14 partners in 10 EU countries. PEGASUS takes as its starting point the need to improve the sustainable provision of public goods and ecosystem services from EU agriculture and forestry, elements of which are threatened by a variety of land management changes and pressures. The overall goal of PEGASUS is to assess and stimulate more effective provision of public goods and ecosystem services from EU farmland and forests, by re-thinking rural land management through the identification of systemic and dynamic interactions and impacts of various drivers, including policy, on the economic, social and environmental benefits provided by agriculture and forestry for society. PEGASUS recognises that rural land in the EU provides a wide range of key functions and services on which society depends. As well as being a vital resource for production of food, fibre, timber and energy, rural land is also a major source of environmental and socio-cultural goods and services, including climate regulation, biodiversity, water quality, soil functionality, flood management, cultural landscapes, rural vitality and recreation, many of which have public goods characteristics, to varying degrees. Yet these potential environmental and social benefits continue to be undervalued in land management decisions in the EU agriculture and forestry sectors.

PEGASUS aims to stimulate long-lasting improvements in the delivery of environmental and social benefits from EU agriculture and forestry sectors. The project explores innovative ways to prevent damaging practices, maintain existing good practice and/or introduce practices that enhance environmental and social outcomes.

PEGASUS has six coherent objectives, as follows:
1. To advance the collective understanding of the different concepts of public goods and ecosystem services relevant to agriculture and forestry;
2. To develop and refine methods for assessing the capacity of different types of farming and forestry systems in Europe to sustain and improve PG/ESS provision whilst maintaining primary production;
3. To develop and refine methodologies to map, characterise and quantify PG/ESS provision in the EU, analysing synergies and conflicting demands as well as the societal demand and appreciation of PG/ESS delivery;
4. To test these understandings, approaches and methodologies within agricultural and forestry sectors, engaging in action research within contrasting case studies covering a range of social-ecological systems; and to analyse their capacity to enhance achievement of PG/ESS delivery and the sustainability and resilience of primary production;
5. Thereby to develop robust mechanisms and tools for assessing and strengthening the current and potential contribution of EU agricultural and forestry sectors to the sustained delivery of PG/ESS; to integrate the outputs into a transferable approach, as well as a systematic operational framework for decision-makers; and to use the PEGASUS results to frame realistic and robust recommendations for both policy and practice for 2020 and beyond;
6. To involve stakeholders through participatory research and co-learning at all stages of PEGASUS and to communicate the findings of the project widely to encourage EU-wide uptake of its new operational framework, and support proposals for more effective EU policy beyond 2020 for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework.
The PEGASUS project kicked off in March 2015 and spans 3 years. In the first 18 months, the PEGASUS team’s activities have made significant contributions to five of the six objectives. Objective 5 – the development of tools and mechanisms, an operational framework and policy recommendations – will be carried out in the next phase of the project, based on the empirical work.

During the first months of the project, the team critically reviewed the concepts of public goods and ecosystem services and, based on state of the art thinking and research, examined the theoretical opportunities that Social-Ecological Systems theory can bring for a more holistic approach to identifying and exploring the systemic and dynamic interactions and impacts of policy on the economic, social and environmental benefits provided by agriculture and forestry for society. We also reviewed the literature to characterise the relationships between primary production in agriculture and forestry and the delivery of public goods (PG) and ecosystem services (ESS), the different forms the societal appreciation of public goods and ecosystem services can take and brought all these findings together under a common conceptual framework. The main results of this process have been the decision to use a Social-Ecological-Systems (SES) framework as a disciplinary-neutral framework to understand the social and ecological resilience of different farming and forestry systems across Europe and, the development of a disciplinary-neutral term ‘environmentally and socially beneficial outcomes’ (ESBOs) to articulate what it is that we want to achieve in this context, i.e. the provision of environmental and social benefits. This term is likely to evolve as the project progresses.

Following the review of concepts, we started a work stream on mapping the inter-linkages between farming and forestry management practices, different intensities of management and the provision of public goods and ecosystem services at EU level. This has helped inform the mapping work, in which we have identified proxy indicators to demonstrate spatially the presence or absence of different ESS/PG. In later phases of the project, we will refine maps through an iterative process, using also outputs from our case studies and we will analyse the geospatial patterns and trends emerging from the mapping with the intention of illustrating hotspots and coldspots of PG/ESS provision. In parallel, we carried out an assessment of the socio-political, economic and institutional drivers which enable or inhibit the provision of the environmental and social benefits by agriculture and forestry through a review of the literature and more in depth investigations in our case study areas. A central plank of the project, PEGASUS teams in ten countries carried out 34 carefully selected ‘broad and shallow’ case studies in different geographical, sectoral, management and governance/institutional contexts using a participatory action-orientated research approach. The 34 case studies examined the functional relationships between agriculture and forestry and the desired social and environmental outcomes and investigated the ways in which these respond to different market, socio-cultural, institutional/governance and policy drivers. Building on previous work streams, other questions explored included the appreciation of different environmental and social benefits by different groups of actors in different systems as well as the key factors that can foster improved provision of ESBOs. Further analysis in 12 ‘in-depth’ case studies will follow in the next phases of PEGASUS.

Finally and at all stages of the project, the PEGASUS team has actively communicated what we are doing and initial findings across different platforms and networks in addition to the ongoing exchange with experts and stakeholders at EU and national/regional level embedded in the project research activities.
PEGASUS is designed to lead to - and so far has made good progress towards - four main impacts.

i) Increased understanding of the nature of resource management and other processes that influence the delivery of public goods and services by different types of farming and forestry systems in Europe.
The literature reviews and findings arising from the mapping work (Work Package 2 –WP2), the analysis of policy, institutional and market drivers (WP3), the first phase of the case study work (WP4) as well as the interaction with experts and stakeholders have greatly contributed to refining understanding of the processes and nature of the factors influencing the delivery of environment and social benefits in the EU. This includes not just the biophysical interactions between land management practices and ESBO provision, but also the role played by market, socio-cultural, institutional and policy drivers and settings. Importantly, some of the key findings so far are: the importance of taking into account the whole range of policies and drivers that operate within a territory or through a supply chain; the interaction of private, market driven initiatives with public policies; and the role that different actors play in collectively contributing to environmental and social ambitions with regard to farming and forests systems.

ii) Development of robust mechanisms and tools for a) measuring and valorising public goods and b) establishing the contributions of the agricultural and forestry sectors to the sustained delivery of these goods.
Whilst this impact will mainly materialise later in the project, all WPs have provided the foundations for the development of these mechanisms and tools during the first 18 months of the project. For example, in WP1 (conceptual framework for PEGASUS), the SES framework that we have chosen to develop and apply within the PEGASUS case studies should form the basis for identifying, in Period 2, more robust mechanisms and tools than would have been possible by using either an ESS or a PG-focused approach. Its broader systemic approach and its recognition of the interdependence and complexity of relations between human and natural elements in the agriculture and forestry sectors should ensure that policy and practice lessons from the case studies are not unduly constrained by the limitations of more narrow disciplinary approaches, as have been used in the past. In WP2, the ongoing EU level analysis on the spatial representation via maps of PG/ESS and their relationships with agricultural and forestry systems should allow us to identify hotspots and cold-spots of PG/ESS supply in a geospatial context. WP3 has highlighted the role of private initiatives and mechanisms, often working alongside public policies, in valorising the provision of environmental and social benefits from agriculture and forestry in economic terms, something which is being further investigated via the case studies and in Period 2 and should help inform the design of improved mechanisms and tools under WP5 (robust mechanisms, transferable tools and recommendations). Finally in WP4 (the case studies), we are identifying the key motivational, institutional and socio-economic factors needed to enable transformative practice to occur which will be central to developing tools to enable these lessons to be applied more widely.
The work performed in the first 18 months provided the building blocks for the fuller completion of this impact later on.

iii) Formulation of appropriate policies, incentives, service models and win-win scenarios to reduce conflicts between productivity objectives in primary production and the delivery of ecosystems services and other public goods.
The realisation of this impact will be mainly for Period 2. However, it is clear from the work in WP4 that the conceptual work in WP1, further enhanced by the work in WP3, has enabled a fuller appreciation of potential mechanisms to reduce conflicts between productivity obje