The role of geographic location in the operationalisation of the concepts of Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital

Symposium organised by:

Marta Pérez-Soba ALTERRA - University and Research Centre Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Sandra S. Luque IRSTEA - National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture, Grenoble, France.


This symposium will explore the role that geographical location plays in the operationalisation of the concepts of ecosystem services (ES) and natural capital (NC).

Making operational ES and NC is the main research objective of two large collaborative projects, recently awarded by the European Commission under FP7: OpenNESS (Operationalisation of Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services: from concepts to real-world applications) and OPERAs (Operational Potential of Ecosystem Research Applications). These two projects aim at linking stakeholders needs to the offer from the scientific community by engaging in the consortia private companies (18 SMEs) with a large scientific community (40 European research institutions).


The concept of ecosystem services provides a powerful way of examining the interaction between ecosystems and human well-being, which are at the heart of landscape ecology science. Despite improved understanding of the potential of landscapes and their land use systems to provide human well-being and socio-economic benefits, further conceptual and empirical work is needed to translate the concepts into operational frameworks for integrating ES into management and decision-making. The basic Ecosystem Service/Natural Capital frameworks (TEEB, 2010, 2011; Potschin and Haines-Young, 2011) link the ecological system (biophysical structure and function) to the social system (benefits and values) and help exploring the multidimensional role that the geographical location can have in operationalising the concepts. The geographical location not only matters regarding the (quantitative) biophysical characteristics underpinning the ecosystem functions, but also provides the venue to identify the (qualitative) stakeholders’ values, and in this way determines the operational potential of the concept of ES. This session will challenge/explore integration of quantitative and qualitative methodologies and their incorporation into new planning instruments (e.g. market-based instruments) and processes by private companies and local planning authorities.

The EU projects OpenNESS and OPERAs, are looking at a range of spatially-explicit methods of varying complexity to gain understanding on ecosystem functioning and trade-offs in different geographical contexts (case studies). Within this context, we have invited selected experts from both projects to present their views on the role that the geographical context has in the operationalisation of the ES and NC concepts. After the presentations the speakers will participate in a panel discussion in close interaction with the audience.


The symposium will support exchange and open discussions to explore the potential contribution of landscape ecology science to support operationalisation of the natural capital and ecosystem service concepts into decision-making contexts.

Oral presentations