An ecosystem assessment does not finish with the final report. Follow up and mainstreaming into decision-making are essential. Having a communication strategy that goes beyond the end of the project, which considers the key audiences and suitable modes of communication is important to facilitate the dissemination of the assessments findings. Funding for this stage in the assessment is often overlooked. The language used to communicate key messages and findings to a business audience for example will differ to that focused at government departments.
Ecosystem assessments are resource intensive – both in terms of data requirements and the human resources to carry out the analyses. The specific policy context and need for the assessment will determine the most appropriate way forward, but a number of approaches are possible:
- If resources are limited - one approach is to first undertake pilot assessments at a local scale. The findings of these smaller scale assessments could be used to leverage buy-in from decision-makers to fund a national scale assessment. Another approach is to focus on a country’s protected area network.
- An ecosystem assessment considers four elements; these elements can be built up in a stepwise approach over a series of integrated projects:
- Status and trends – assessment of priority ecosystems and their services, as well as the associated drivers of change;
- Scenarios – development of descriptive story lines to illustrate the consequences of different plausible kinds of change in drivers, ecosystems and their services and human well-being;
- Valuation – of ecosystem services in monetary and non-monetary terms and examining present and future delivery of services;
- Response options – examining past and current actions that have been taken to enhance contribution of ecosystem services to human well-being.
In the process of undertaking an assessment knowledge gaps are identified. Knowing what is not known is just as important as understanding what is known. Gaps in data, information and knowledge can be useful in informing a future research agenda and monitoring requirements.
The Spanish National Ecosystem Assessment (SNEA) provided the first national-level analysis in Spain to evaluate the ability of ecosystems and biodiversity to maintain human wellbeing. The SNEA aimed to generate robust, scientifically valid information that highlighted the importance of conserving ecosystems and biodiversity beyond the academic world by linking to a good quality of life.
The SNEA took place in two parts: a biophysical evaluation (2009-2012), and an economic valuation of Spain’s priority ecosystems, which started in 2013 and is now complete. This second phase has taken into account the different types of services and the various methodologies to estimate economic values (use and non-use values) to visualize the contribution that ecosystems and biodiversity provide to human wellbeing, not only in ecological terms but also economic. The results of this project presented a multi-dimensional evaluation of ecosystems in Spain and have helped to prioritize the management of ecosystem services. Click here to download the full project report in Spanish.Spanish National Ecosystem Assessment