Lessons learnt from the application of an ecosystem services mapping method
Over the last six years, The Mersey Forest has been gradually developing a green infrastructure mapping method. The method spatially assesses provision of and need for 28 identified functions of green infrastructure. These map closely to ecosystem services as identified by, for example, the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment1. The method has been refined through application to a wide range of different study areas, from a 6ha site to a mixed landscape covering over 3,000km2. It is also adapted each time it is used to the particular characteristics of the study area and the priorities of the key stakeholders. It is a pragmatic method, accepting unsatisfactory proxies where they are better than nothing, in the interests of informing policy immediately, but has also been validated by the North West of England's Green Infrastructure Think Tank, a group of academic and policy experts.
Over the course of the development of the method, a whole series of lessons have been learnt that may be of use to others wishing to use the ecosystem services approach (and the associated scientific knowledge and thinking) in practice to support and inform planning and policy development. The opportunities and challenges that have arisen will be presented, together with various solutions, workarounds, and ways to take advantage of opportunities. These range from technical spatial data issues to communication issues. The interface between the two has been found to be more substantial a challenge than either. However, the green infrastructure mapping method has formed a key element in of the evidence base resulting in changes to real policy and funding streams, and even change on the ground.
1. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2003. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: A Framework for Assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC.