Biodiversity conservation and optimizing ecosystem services: Two sides of the same coin?

Francis Turkelboom, Linda Meiresonne

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    Conserving biodiversity and optimizing ecosystem services (ESS) are often mentioned in the same context, suggesting that they are two sides of the same coin. However, they do not necessarily result in the same type of interventions, and some parties raised concern that improvement of ecosystem services could - in some cases - go at the expense of biodiversity. The purpose of this paper is to characterize the dependency of ecosystem services on biodiversity, and to assess its implications on planning and management.
    The dependency of ecosystem services on biodiversity can be summarized to 5 main types: harvesting of specific species, ESS depending on multiple species, ESS depending on certain ecosystem processes and/or patterns, ESS depending on complexity of ecosystems, and ecosystem disservices caused by “undesirable” species. This typology is used to design a framework for assessing the potential impact of ecosystem services projects on biodiversity. Some of the potential risks include overharvesting of certain species, maximization of single services, focus on few functional species/processes/patterns, neglect (or elimination) of non-functional species, replacement ESS by technical solutions, and disservices caused by ESS enhancement. A spatial differentiation of goals and ranking the priorities for each area can partly overcome these potential risks. The analysis is supported with examples from Belgium.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Thematic list

    • Management
    • Society
    • Species and biotopes

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B003-ecology


    • ecosystem services
    • biodiversity policy

    Geographic list

    • Flanders

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