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  • VIEWPOINT OF PARTNERS

    -Bernard Chevassus-au- Louis \ Council on food, agriculture and rural areas
    "In addition to chemical and physical characteristics, water managers must now take into account the quality of aquatic environments and their overall ecological operation..."

    -Jacques Delsalle \ European commission
    "The concept of ecosystem services is occasionally misinterpreted due to its utilitarian vision of nature. But it is necessary to understand that the use of socio-economic arguments is now indispensable if we are to defend and conserve aquatic environments..."

Ecosystem services, an idea whose time has come

Once fully appreciated, assessments of ecosystem services will become a key factor in implementing policies and management plans for aquatic environments. Onema published a book on the subject and organised a European symposium in 2011 precisely to help water managers adopt the concept rapidly and effectively.

Popularised by the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005, the concept of ecosystem or ecological services has steadily gained ground ever since. It could be used in the future for WFD implementation to improve water-management systems. The notion covers all the goods and services made available to humans by an ecosystem. Their assessment can be used as a means to set priorities and make decisions for the management of natural water resources. However, it is first necessary to correctly identify, characterise and assess ecosystem services. It is also difficult to set a precise monetary value on the goods and services provided by nature, notably cultural goods. Even though many studies and assessments have been published in recent years, the concept remains fairly new and often difficult to implement for water managers and political officials. Through projects and research, Onema participates in producing new knowledge on ecosystem services to enhance our understanding and above all ensure their inclusion in environmental-management procedures.

A book to assist in establishing assessment procedures

The book, titled “Assessing the ecological services of aquatic environments. Scientific, political and operational issues” and produced in the framework of the national scientific council managed by Onema, is above all a complete presentation of the topic. It was published at the end of 2011 and the authors, Jean-Pierre Amigues and Bernard Chevassus-au-Louis, discuss the concepts drawn from biodiversity research and apply them to the management of aquatic environments. They highlight the main issues in an assessment and advise on the best methods. A number of concrete procedures are also presented in detail to facilitate their implementation. Concerning the difficult economic aspect, the book discusses the advantages and limits of various costing methods and proposes an operational assessment scenario.

Ecosystem services and the Water framework directive (WFD)

In September 2011, Onema also co-organised a symposium on the contribution of ecosystem services to WFD implementation, in conjunction with EC DG RTD (Research and innovation directorate of the European commission). The event took place in Brussels and brought together almost 130 persons representing 21 EU organisations. A number of tools to acquire more knowledge and better understanding of ecosystem services were presented during the symposium and served to establish a number of concrete guidelines. Assessment of ecosystem services could become part of several steps in WFD implementation, i.e. status reports, programmes of measures and negotiation tools. During the various sessions, the links between restoring the good ecological status of water and maintaining ecosystem services were made very clear. Finally, the symposium was an occasion for several countries to present projects attempting to model the links between ecological and biological processes, good ecological status and the provision of services. France presented the Esawadi project dealing with the hydromorphological restoration of a river in the Dordogne department.