Ecosystem services in ROBUST

Fri 20 Oct 2017

An interview with Maria Rosario Partidario (Instituto Superior Tecnico - University of Lisbon), the leader of ROBUST's Community of Practice on ecosystem services.

What is the most pressing current issue or challenge related to ecosystem services (in the context of rural-urban linkages)?

I would say there are three main, yet inter-related, pressing issues or challenges. One is the enhancement of territorial development compatible with the maintenance of ecosystem services; the second is the restoration, or rehabilitation of ecosystem services; and the third is the valuation, and payment, of ecosystem services. Pressures derive mostly from land change from rural to urban, but also within urban areas (for example changing green areas into impermeable areas) and within rural areas (for example natural forest into mono plantation of production forest). There is still a lack of recognition of the role played by ecosystems in contributing both to reduction of risks as well as to improved productivities and wealth generation. While payment for ecosystem services is being attempted, it is still far from routine practice.


What is a misconception about rural and/or urban areas regarding this topic?

One misconception is that ecosystem services are predominantly relevant in rural areas. Yet urban areas can, and should, value the services that are provided by their ecosystems.


How can rural and urban areas mutually benefit from cooperating on ecosystem services?

I would argue that ecosystem services provide strong reasons for linking urban and rural areas, by enhancing socio-ecological system connectivities. Basically the challenge is to look into areas as a continuum without the conventional classification of urban and rural. People, particularly in Europe, need to re-establish relationships with different types of territories without necessarily having to make the option of being urban or rural.


Which ROBUST living labs will be dealing with this Community of Practice (CoP)?

There are eight living labs in this CoP: Frankfurt-Rhein-Main; Gloucestershire County; Lisbon Region; Tukums municipality; City of Helsinki; Ljubljana region; Province of Lucca; and Ede Municipality


Can you name a few current best practices/good examples in this field (in research or, preferably, in practice)?

There are good practices with using or enhancing ecosystem services concerning food production, namely with the increase in socially driven collective agriculture systems in urban areas. We also see good practices in climate regulation and flood control, increased concerns regarding the assurance of water infiltration upstream in a riven basin or watershed, and with protection of the cultural meaning of landscapes, to name a few typologies.


What are the main ROBUST activities that will take place surrounding ecosystem services?

Typically we will be looking into the enhancement of ecosystems services and their role in linking urban-rural territories. We will aim at spacialising ecosystem services, addressing conflicting situations, exploring benefits and valuing ecosystem services, and engaging stakeholders in building an understanding of these services. We will also be exploring the mutual benefits of ecosystem services with other CoP, in particular sustainable food systems, the public infrastructures that are provided by green infrastructures, and the new businesses that emerge because of ecosystem services enhancement, including the provision of cultural services for both recreational and tourism activities.


What are the main outputs you expect from ROBUST in this thematic area?

Outputs may include building evidence on how ecosystem services can play a role in territorial transition processes, harmonising economic, social and environmental benefits, establishing networks of actors and engaging stakeholders through constructive dialogues that can explore benefits and opportunities of ecosystem services for overall development.

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News about Rural-Urban Europe and the ROBUST project is published regularly in the INFORMED CITIES newsletter.

ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. ROBUST receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727988.

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