Mainstreaming ecosystem services into decision making is dependent on spatially explicit ecosystem assessments
The concept of ecosystem services has entered the EU decision making process. It is now time for science to deliver concrete results! An important milestone in this context is the 2014 deadline under target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy which requires EU Member States to map and assess their ecosystems and the services they deliver. Action 5 of the strategy is certainly the most innovative and research based action of the EU Biodiversity Strategy as it sets the EU knowledge base for green infrastructure and ecosystem restoration. The essential question we face is the following: where should the EU invest in green infrastructure so that (1) ecosystem services are enhanced and benefits from nature continue to flow in a sustainable way from ecosystems to people; (2) threatened species and habitats protected under the EU nature legislation are conserved in a network that is climate change proof ensuring also no net loss of biodiversity; (3) there is return on investment in green infrastructure in terms of jobs and growth. An essential part of the answer to this question requires an integrated, multi-scale mapping and modelling approach of where ecosystem services are produced and where the benefits are appreciated. Furthermore, a better understanding is needed of the ecological production functions and their specific relationships with biodiversity, which is at the basis of ecosystem services. The FP7 project OpenNESS will apply such an approach building on earlier experiences (including the outputs of the PEER-PRESS project). This paper demonstrates results of on-going efforts of mapping of ecosystem services at EU scale and demonstrate how such efforts are currently being used to support EU policy on biodiversity.