Edited by Davide Geneletti
Chapter 3: Ecosystem services analysis for Strategic Environmental Assessment: concepts and examples
The ultimate objective of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is to help to protect the environment and promote sustainability, by ensuring that environmental considerations inform ‘strategic actions’, that is, policies, plans and programmes. There is a growing interest in the potential of SEA, and impact assessment in general, to mainstream ecosystem services concerns in decision-making, as shown by recent publications, reviews of practices, as well as legislation. Experiences in this field have begun to emerge in the last few years, showing the need for comprehensive guidance. This chapter addresses this need by proposing key analyses to mainstream ecosystem services information, as follows: • Building a conceptual framework for ecosystem services production and use in the study region, including analysis of relevant regulations, plans and policies. In the first stage, SEA needs to provide an understanding of the context within which the strategic action will be developed and implemented. This analysis aims at establishing the ‘ecosystem services context’, by identifying ecosystem services and beneficiaries for the strategic action region, and reviewing relevant regulations, plans and policies concerning these services. • Determining priority ecosystem services and assessing their baseline conditions and trends. In this SEA stage, scoping is performed to focus on the most relevant issues in the light of the context and the objectives of the strategic action. The analysis aim at identifying a limited set of priority ecosystem services (which are considered relevant for shaping and informing the development of the strategic action), and generating detailed information about these services. • Developing possible alternatives that enhance opportunities and reduce risks for ecosystem services, and assessing their impact. In this stage, the strategic action is taking shape and specific alternatives are proposed and compared to achieve the objectives of the action. The analysis aims at contributing to the development and assessment of the alternatives in order to promote the conservation of ecosystem services, or at least to minimize the negative impacts and propose mitigation and off-set measures. • Monitoring changes in the context and impacts on ecosystem services. This SEA stage begins when the strategic action has been approved. The analysis aims at understanding the effective impacts on ecosystem services associated to the implementation of the action, as well as relevant contextual changes. The ultimate purpose is to enable timely interventions and adjustments to the action to address detected problems. Each analysis builds on previous ones, even though the sequence is not intended to be followed strictly. SEA is an iterative process, and many analyses may take place in parallel or in a different order, or may need to be iterated during the process. The overall purpose of the proposed analyses is to ensure that all relevant information of ecosystem services is collected, processed and used to support decision-making effectively. The proposed analyses can be used in different contexts and for different types of SEA processes.
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