OPERAs – Operational Potential of Ecosystem Research Applications
Ecosystems provide humanity with a great diversity of resources, goods and services. However, the speed that we consume them and exploit them is increasing so rapidly that many of the major ecosystems have their vital, enduring, threatened functions. Ecosystem services (SE) and natural capital (NC) are two key structuring elements that provide guidance for better management and preservation of our ecosystems. These concepts - SE and CN - have been adopted in higher political frameworks. However, there is a great difference between the scientific knowledge about ecosystems and the practical application of this knowledge in the formulation of policies and in the processes of management and decision making. The OPERAs project explores whether, how and under what conditions these concepts can go beyond the academic domain and be implemented in practice by supporting sustainable ecosystem management.
Involvement of stakeholders
Ecosystem services are the benefits people derive from Nature. Thus, for ecosystem services to have meaning, researchers need to involve stakeholders. However, identifying them appropriately and effectively engaging them can be a challenge. Stakeholder involvement is a key component of OPERAs and in each of the 12 case studies (designated by examplar) they have been involved in a variety of ways.
Exemplars – test sites for the application of the instruments
The examplars are a set of carefully selected case studies covering a wide range of SEs from diverse scales, areas and management systems. They are privileged Living Labs that contribute to new knowledge about needs of those applying the concepts of ecosystem services in practice. More than that, they work as experimental places where their instruments can be tested.
One of these case studies - the cultural landscape of Montado – is being developed in Portugal in context of Montado Long Term Ecological Research (LTERportugal.net - www.lterportugal.net)) region, with focal point on conservation. Montado is a unique form of endemic agro-silvo-pastoral system in Mediterranean basin that focuses on cork oak: Quercus suber. It is a complex and productive system of high ecological and socioeconomic relevance, being one of the sectors that more employment creates in Portugal, but is under intense threat because of lack of maintenance.
This project, aims to improve its management and to help facilitate the sustainability of Montado for future generations. The team has worked jointly with Montado Systems’ owners and managers in the development of scenarios and creation of SE maps ensuring a permanent active and direct interaction among the main stakeholders of Montado. Workshops have been held with these and other stakeholders such as companies, public agencies and non-governmental environmental organizations to understand their perceptions about Montado and valorization of this type of ecosystem.
OPERAs is developed beyond the Practice component, which works together with stakeholders to assess and value ecosystem services. The OPERAs’ Work Plan also covers the Knowledge and Instruments components, facilitating the exchange and dissemination of information among all:
• Practice - working on a variety of ecosystems, in cases of "exemplars" studies, transforming ecosystem services and natural capital into practice.
• Knowledge – produces, perfects and integrates cutting-edge science on ecosystem services into policies and practices.
• Instruments – providing stakeholders with accessible tools and tools to enable them to apply scientific knowledge about ecosystem services in their area of work.
• Dissemination – involving stakeholders of the scientific and political sectors and professionals in the area building up a community focused on its results.
• The Resource Center - developing an open platform for collaboration between the scientific, policy and practice communities. This online platform brings together innovative solutions based on Nature from all over Europe.
This project received funding from the 7º Framework Program of the European Union for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration under Grant Agreement number 308393.
In Portugal, it is coordinated by cE3c – Centro de Ecologia, Evolução e Alterações Climáticas, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, being the participatory componente of the responsibility of the wTeamUp www.operas-project.eu.
Margarida Santos-Reis, Lia Vasconcelos, Ursula Caser and Inês Rosário
Team members and collaborators: Cristina Máguas, Filipa Ferro, Leonor Almeida, Maria João Branco, Márilisa Coelho, Nuno Ramos, Paula Gonçalves, Pedro Pinho, Rui Santos, Rui Rebelo, Sueli Ventura, Vanice Selva
Relatório do 1º Workshop Participativo
Relatório do 2º Workshop Participativo