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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

Ecosystem services for nature, people and prosperity

The concept of ecosystem services is becoming more mainstream among policy, business and practice. There is a wide range of research going on around the globe. The key challenge is to turn this knowledge into practice. This was the clear message from the well-attended and perfectly organized 8th global Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) conference in South-Africa last week.

Over 360 participants, mostly from the research community but also with representation from business, practice, policy and NGOs, gathered in Stellenbosch, South-Africa, for a week of presentations, networking and discussion on what the concept of ecosystem services can bring to nature, people and prosperity.

The many presentations and posters on progress and results of scientific research on the subject demonstrated that much knowledge is piling up globally. Repeatedly though, some of the speakers referred to the need to make this knowledge available to those that need it for their business, practice or policy. This was addressed in a number of sessions that covered themes such as science-policy interaction, practical implementation, storytelling, or the ethical value of conservation versus ecosystem services. The recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals featured quite prominently throughout the conference, offering an opportunity for ecosystem services to act as integrators for sustainable development. Also the field excursions as part of the conference brought us to practical applications in connection to drought, invasive alien species, water purification and related themes.

OpenNESS provided great input into the conference, with its many examples of how ecosystem services and natural capital are operationalized at local and regional levels. OpenNESS partners provided input into sessions on mapping techniques, modelling, integrated valuation, adaptive management, a smartphone app, and Oppla. Also, the attendance of the conference provided great inspiration for next year´s European ecosystem services conference that will be organized jointly by the ESP with OpenNESS, OPERAs and ECOPLAN in Antwerp, Belgium.

Photo: © Ben Delbaere