Application of the ecosystem services framework for vision development of a landscape mosaic in NE Belgium.

Francis Turkelboom, Paula Ulenaers, Hans Keune, Ilse Simoens

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    “De Wijers” covers 20.000 ha and is spread out over 7 municipalities in north-east Belgium. The most dominant land-uses are fish ponds, marshes, forests, heathland, grassland, residential areas and industry. An ESS approach was adopted as a guiding framework to develop a vision for several reasons: it was felt that ESS stimulate positive thinking, it was expected to stimulate multi-sectoral thinking, and it was considered as a suitable vehicle to achieve resilient and multi-functional landscapes. The main strategy to build a widely-supported vision was a series of interactive workshops. In total 200 people participated in the workshops (mainly project partners, government agencies and NGO’s). Environmental, tourism and fishery sector were well represented, whereas it was much more difficult to mobilise representatives from industry, agriculture and the social sector. The workshops stimulated social learning among partners, increased understanding for other positions, enabled networking, and contributed to higher trust between stakeholders.
    The strength of employing the ESS concept as a vehicle for vision development was that it was easy to understand, that it was very inclusive, and that it stimulated participants to reflect about the structures and processes which they depend on. By asking participants to list desired benefits for the future (2030), participants were enabled to think more freely (out-of-the-box), and as such we avoided to be bogged down in today problems and conflicts. Scoring and prioritization were found to be simple, yet helpful tools to structure the different ideas. Another powerful tool was the question to identify potential win-win situation between desired services. This enabled to build bridges between (usually contradicting) sectors. A limitation of the ESS concept for regional planning is that it focusses mainly on the contribution of ecosystems to regional development. Other elements, such as employment, transport, regional character, cultural heritage also came up as important vision elements, but could not directly linked to the ESS concept. On the other hand, ‘invisible’ ecosystem processes are at risk to fall from the radar during a participatory process (e.g. groundwater dynamics). For some, the approach was too abstract, too theoretical and too complex.
    Overall, this was a very interesting pilot of bottom-up mainstreaming of ESS in regional planning. The concept and the used approach can certainly contribute to vision development, especially for regions with complex land-use and many involved stakeholders. However 4 elements will need special attention: the inclusion of powerful but less concerned partners, inclusion of invisible services and services which are not ecosystem-related, and efficient use of workshop time.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Thematic list

    • Management
    • Society
    • Space


    • ecosystem services

    Geographic list

    • Limburg

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