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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

OpenNESS Annual Meeting: four years of work comes to an end...

Will the OpenNESS project achieve its main aim, to help operationalise ecosystem services and natural capital, to turn the concepts into real-world applications? This was the underlying thinking behind this year’s annual project meeting, which focused on synthesizing the results of almost four years of work. The OpenNESS project has entered its last year of operations and therefore this meeting brought together the results of its work on concepts and theories, policies and regulations, models and methods, and valuation of ecosystem services and natural capital.

The fundament of much of this work is through a set of 27 case studies which look at the reality of implementing the rather technical or scientific concepts in physical localities and concrete situations. What models work best in urban conditions? How to involve stakeholders in agricultural settings? How to assess values that people attached to ecosystem services in forest areas? These are some of the many questions that were addressed in the case studies.

Now it is time to bring together the results of the case studies in a synthesis process that looks at the lessons that can be learned from experience and to offer recommendations to help others operationalise ecosystem services. And to relate the results to policy processes at local to global levels. It is too soon for a final synthesis, but some key elements coming out of the meeting included the importance of human interaction in identifying questions for which ecosystems may provide answers, the need to consider values from many different angles, or the necessity to apply different methods and repeat implementation steps in a flexible way.

The next few months will see results from the synthesis process in terms of scientific papers, policy briefs, or presentations at the final project conference in September 2016.

A number of keynote presentations and reflections from the project’s international advisory board enriched the discussions at the OpenNESS annual meeting. Dr Kai Chan from the University of British Columbia gave a keynote about the importance of cultural ecosystem services and how relational values are key to stewardship and conservation of ecosystem services and biodiversity. Dr Davide Geneletti from the University of Trento demonstrated how integrating ecosystem services may help fine tune and enhance impact assessments. The International Advisory Board, impressed with the work done by OpenNESS, gave a number of recommendations in connection with the type of change that OpenNESS wants to achieve, the synthesis process, visibility of the outcomes, including through stories based on the case studies.

The meeting was held at OpenNESS partner UFZ in Leipzig, Germany, from 25 to 28 April, bringing together some 70 participants from all partners.

Photo: Allan Watt