Foreword: The French students enrolled in the MSc ‘Agroecology, Soil and Water Conservation’ attend a 6-seminar cycle with the international students. They are asked to introduce the guest speaker and to write back a summary of the seminar. Here is the summary of the second seminar (99% of the following text has be written by the students).

Mapping and modeling ecosystem services: capturing the role of soil and water

Dr. Jan Staes, University of Antwerp (Belgium), Ecosystem Management Research Group

Authors: Valentine and Cyrane

Dr Jan Staes came at UniLaSalle on February 21th to give a lecture about a project he is implicated in. The ECOPLAN Scenario-Evaluator (ECOPLAN-SE) project investigates the potential of ecosystem based on adaptation measures to climate change impacts and ecosystem services in general. It focuses on conceptualizing ecosystem functioning in relation to ecosystem services (ES). That includes their landscape interactions and external forcing (such as climate change). To summarize, it aims to develop concepts and methodologies to identify and classify ecosystems from a functional point of view.

This project takes place in the Flamish region that faces enormous challenges to improve the environmental quality in order to comply with EU environmental standards and conserve the natural capital to guarantee health and quality of life of its inhabitants. Current measures and actions are not adequate to reach these standards and already generate very high costs for environmental management.

The ECOPLAN-SE is a free Q-GIS plug-in. It includes 18 region-specific ES models, 64 land cover categories (i.e. oak forest, pine forest ,etc.) and 30 land use classes (i.e. football field, grassland, etc.). Moreover, the database already contains all the required datasets. Thanks to this plug-in, you can update a map, create rules and create and alternative scenarios.

The added value is that the plug-in is freely available but overall it takes into consideration that the different ecosystem services are interconnected, even if they are interdependent through their input-output relationships and shared variables.

To conclude, the ECOPLAN-SE is a model that operates with an annual time step, has a high spatial and thematic resolution and calculation methods relatively simple and intuitive. Concretely, this tool can be used to help to determine the extent to which protection is needed and/or development of additional greenery and to what extent there are opportunities to further strengthen the supply of certain ecosystem services.

Useful links

The project web page.

The monitor web page (in Flamish).

Dr Jan Staes Research gate page.

Professor’s perspective

This seminar gives a very detailed overview of the design of a spatialized  model from the selection of the relevant processes and interactions to  the implementation in a software (QGIS). Compared to other specialized models, the maps of the simulated ecosystem services may help the stakeholders involved in the land, soil and water management to confront their points of view and decide of common projects and actions.