The Spatial Distribution of Ecosystem Services in Europe

Ecosystems provide a number of essential services underpinning all human life and activities. It is therefore important to recognize the multiple functions from ecosystems and integrate them in management strategies. To manage for multiple ecosystem services we need to map and identify the spatial synergies and trade-offs between services (Maes et al. 2012a; Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010). In doing so, we are able to identify ecosystems supporting high level of services and biodiversity (Chan et al. 2006). Along the years, the number of studies mapping ecosystem services has grown, informing both planners and decision makers on how to prioritize the protection and management of ecosystems (Chan et al. 2006; Naidoo and Ricketts 2006).

In the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2020, the need for spatial assessment of ecosystem services has been included as one of the key actions. Under Action 5, all EU Member States are required to map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services by 2014. The results of this action will also contribute to the assessment of the economic value of ecosystem services, which is to be integrated into the accounting and reporting systems at both EU and national level by 2020 (European Commission 2011b).

Table 3.1  List of the ecosystem services and corresponding indicators used in the study. (Adapted from Maes et al. 2011). HANPP data were obtained from Haberl et al. (2007)

Here we build on on-going work to map ecosystem services across Europe (Maes et al. 2011). We consider a total of 7 ecosystem services, represented by 9 indicators (Table 3.1). In order for each ecosystem service to contribute equally to the analysis, and following the method of Petter et al. (2013), we standardized the data by reclassifying each service into a quantile split, producing a range of scores from 1 to 5 (five meaning high supply of a specific service). We then summed the 9 indicators to produce a map of “total” ecosystem services supply across Europe (Fig. 3.1a). We used the HANPP (Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production) data presented in Haberl et al. (2007), as the indicator for food provision. The HANPP values were only extracted within agricultural land as to not repeat the information on the provision of timber.

Low stocks for ecosystem service supply appear mainly around urbanized and densely populated areas and in arable land, e.g in central and eastern Spain, southern Romania, eastern UK, and Denmark (Fig. 3.1 a and b). However, low total supply of services does not mean a low quality of the supply of individual services. For example, even if food production were at their highest level in some areas, if that is the only service provided, such area would appear in the low range of the map. High total ecosystem service supply includes mainly pastures, forests and (semi) natural areas, such as the northwest Iberia, Scandinavia, central France, and central Romania. Areas of high total ecosystem service supply in Europe also coincide with mountain regions (Fig. 3.1a), mainly consisting of forest and (semi)-natural areas (Fig. 3.1b).

Fig. 3.1  Ecosystem services and land-covers in Europe. a Sum of the quantile splits of all indicators used in the analysis. With each quantile split, services can reach values between 1 and 5, 5 being the highest. By summing all 9 indicators (see Table 3.1), the gradient potentially varies between 9 and 45 but, de facto, the maximum and minimum values are 9 and 38 (Method detailed in the text). b Map of European land-covers based on the Corine Land Cover data base of 2006 (EEA 2010a). Both maps use an Eckert IV projection

Changes in human demand for services associated with specific land uses have shown diverging trends in Europe, varying between regions. In general the supply of crops, timber (mainly in northern countries), freshwater, and recreation has increased in the last 50 years while livestock production and wild foods supply have followed a decreasing trend throughout much of Europe's rural areas (Harrison et al. 2010). Other studies suggest that unsustainable farming practices and mismanagement through agricultural intensification have contributed to the loss of habitat and biodiversity, soil erosion and nutrient runoff (Dunbar et al. 2013).

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