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

Authors and Affiliations: 

Marta PĂ©rez-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.



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 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). 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 presentation 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.


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TEEB (2011). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National and international Policy Making., (Ed. P. ten Brink), Earthscan, London.