Ecosystem services: climate change and policy impacts

Ecosystem services: climate change and policy impacts

Available online at Ecosystem services: climate change and policy impacts Editorial overview Bojie Fu, Martin Forsius and Jian ...

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Ecosystem services: climate change and policy impacts Editorial overview Bojie Fu, Martin Forsius and Jian Liu Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2013, 5:1–3 For a complete overview see the Issue Available online 13th March 2013 1877-3435/$ – see front matter, # 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Bojie Fu State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for EcoEnvironmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China e-mail: [email protected] Bojie Fu is a professor and the academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS). His research focuses on ecosystem assessment and management, landscape pattern and ecological processes. He is the MEP member of IPBES, Vice President of International Association of Landscape Ecology, Vice Chair of International Long-term Ecological Research Network (ILTER), and a member of the Editorial Boards for Landscape Ecology, and Landscape and Urban Planning.

Martin Forsius Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), P.O. Box 140, FI-00251 Helsinki, Finland Martin Forsius is leading the ‘Ecosystem Change’ unit at the Finnish Environment Institute. The focus of his research is on the effects of climate change and air pollutants on biogeochemical processes. He is currently leading the Finnish LTER-network (, and was chairman of the scientific steering group of the BIOGEOMON 2009 conference. He has also been scientific leader of an environmental assessment report prepared for the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Arctic Council).

Jian Liu UNEP International Ecosystem Management Partnership (IEMP), Beijing 100101, China Jian Liu is the Director of IEMP. Prior to this appointment, he served as the Chief of UNEP Climate Change Adaptation Unit and the Deputy Secretary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His earlier posts include Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Resources and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Director of the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network (CERN), and Manager of Environment Program of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

This issue on terrestrial systems in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability is focusing on ecosystem services: climate change and policy impacts. Ecosystems services contribute from the structure and function of the ecosystems, and are combined with other inputs, important for human well-being. Over the past decades, this topic has attracted significant attention and progress has been made in improving our understanding of how ecosystems function and how humans benefit from them [1]. Nonetheless, the losses of ecosystem services continue more rapidly than ever before. Furthermore, climate/global change provides a major challenge for the sustainable management of key ecosystem services [2]. Climate change studies indicate large changes in mean air temperatures and precipitation patterns during this century with regional variations. Changes in seasonal patterns as well as in the frequency and intensity of episodes are also projected. These changes are affecting ecosystem structure and spatial patterns, driving changes in species distributions and numerous processes in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems [3]. Sector-specific adaptation measures are therefore needed. These adaptation measures have to be based on the understanding of first, the likelihood and speed of change, second, vulnerability of the specific ecosystem services to the predicted change, third, information about trade-off relationships, and fourth, knowledge of the local-scale possibilities for adaptation. In conclusion, ecosystem services are being threatened by human activities and the situation will be exacerbated by future climate change under all scenarios. Research in this field is also of great importance for science and policy interface in the domain of ecological restoration, ecological compensation and sustaining ecological security. There is thus an urgent need for developing and reviewing the process, methods and tools for obtaining detailed quantitative ecosystem service values in the ecosystem-climate nexus. This information is also needed by major intergovernmental environmental science and policy mechanisms such as IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) and IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). This issue of ‘Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability’ contains review articles on both specific ecosystem services and broader overviews on this topic from different regions of the world. This issue has been divided into four sections:

Methodologies for ecosystem service science As the analysis of ecosystem structure and processes is a prerequisite to the ecosystem services approach, Fu et al. [4] propose a framework to illustrate the social system relying on the ecological system, and the relationships between ecosystem composition, ecosystem structure, ecosystem processes Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2013, 5:1–3

2 Terrestrial systems

and ecosystem services. Wang et al. [5] suggest an integrated set of market, government, and human values to manage ecosystem services. Scholes et al. [6] point to some useful multi-scale and cross-scale assessment methods for the coupled social–ecological systems.

Climate change and ecosystem services In this part, four papers analyze the various aspects of ecosystem services vs. climate change at different spatial scales. Forsius et al. [7] synthesize main result of a large Finnish project studying the vulnerability of key ecosystem services to climate change and the possibilities for the individual sectors of society to adapt to these changes. Vanhala et al. [8] review the impacts of harvest-residue-based bioenergy on the carbon balance of forests and discuss aspects linked to the concept of carbon neutrality. Munang and Liu [9] analyze the vicious spiral between climate change impacts, ecosystem degradation and increased risk of climate-related disasters. They conclude that political commitment at the highest level is urgently needed if ecosystem management is to have the adequate weight it deserves in the post-2012 climate change agreement. Vihervaara et al. [10] demonstrate the importance of the ILTER network in the study and monitoring of environmental changes at a global level. They give examples of how biodiversity and ecosystem service data can be used to study impacts and adaptation options in response to climate change.

Policy and human dimensions of ecosystem services Munang et al. [11] provide a new pragmatic approach to buffering climate change impacts. Adhikari and Boag [12] review recent literature on Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) to understand the conditions influencing the successful implementation of PES schemes and their associated outcomes over time. Kumar et al. [13] build their review around the key messages from the recently completed study ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)’ and highlight the usefulness and limitation of economic valuation of ecosystem services. Hein et al. [14] argue that PES can and should make an important contribution, but that it will not be sufficient to rely on PES alone to finance the actions necessary to substantially reduce biodiversity loss. Blignaut et al. [15] review 1 575 peer-reviewed papers and show that although the science and applications of markets for ecosystem services have developed strongly, the restoration activities captured in the academic press are poorly linked to this developing market. Howe et al. [16] found that there is small number of studies on ecosystem services, measures of poverty and climate change, and the links between climate change, ecosystem services and poverty are complex, and suggested that there is a need for new empirical data to elucidate these links and pathways. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2013, 5:1–3

Regional case studies In this part, three papers give examples on the application of the ecosystem service concept in different world regions. Aherne and Posch [17] have assessed the potential impacts of nitrogen and sulfur deposition on ecosystem services in Canadian forests using the concept of critical loads. Their study suggests that provisioning, regulating, and supporting ecosystem services in these ecosystems are negatively impacted by elevated deposition. The study of Chen et al. [18], conducted in the ecologically vulnerable region of Central Asia, evaluates net primary productivity (NPP), actual evapotranspiration (AET), and crop production based on land use and land cover changes during 1990– 2009. Maes et al. [19] present a synthesis of the European PRESS initiative, which demonstrates a multi-scale mapping and assessment approach of ecosystem services using case studies on recreation, water purification, and pollination. The study provides arguments to include ecosystem services in policy impact assessment. The integrative character of ecosystem services bridges realms of ecological, economic, and social research. It can be seen from these collected papers of this special issue that the ecosystem services research has moved substantially from introductions and questing the concepts to far more specific detailed considerations regarding methods and applications. Sustaining and restoring ecosystem service flows is the foundation for improving human wellbeing [20]. A wealth of knowledge of the ecological systems that provide the services is therefore needed, including methods to measure, monitor, map, and model the physical characteristics of ecosystem services. Practice has also proved a need for a better use the knowledge of the economic systems that benefit from ecosystem services, examining when the economic valuation is needed and avoiding its misleading effects. The proper use of theories of microeconomics and macroeconomics is also essential. Since the topic is inherently complex, environmental management based on the ecosystem service concept clearly needs to identify the outcomes among different societal choices. Also the impacts of simultaneous human activities need to be considered [21]. In this age when ecosystem services clearly are becoming crucial, these collected papers briefly summarize the progress made in this field. However, much remains to be done in using this concept to steward and restore the life supporting system of the earth.

Acknowledgements This topic was initiated as part of the CLIMES-project (Impacts of climate change on multiple ecosystem services: Processes and adaptation options at landscape scales) financed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. GJHZ 1215) and the Academy of Finland (project 256231), and supported partially by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41230745).

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Editorial overview Fu, Forsius and Liu 3


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Forsius M, Anttila S, Arvola L, Bergstro¨m I, Hakola H, Heikkinen HI, Helenius J, Hyva¨rinen M, Jylha¨ K, Karjalainen J et al.: Impacts and adaptation options of climate change on ecosystem services in Finland: a model based study. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 2013, 5:26-40.


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Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2013, 5:1–3