ESAV Guidelines to improve involvement of ecosystem services into decision making in Western Balkans
Author: Sara Pavkov, Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province
ESAV Guidelines have been just finalized by the Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province and experts from the region. The Guidelines were created with the aim to showcase good practices of protected areas’ establishment and management with the full consideration of ecosystem services.
Although ecosystem services, as a term used in nature protection and biodiversity management, has been used for almost a decade in the Western Balkans, it is still often misunderstood, and insufficiently considered in decision-making processes on the proclamation of protected areas and preparing respective protected areas management plans.
Why is ecosystem service assessment and valuation important for the Western Balkan’s natural values and biodiversity conservation?
It incorporates cross-sectoral biophysical, economic, social and institutional aspects. Ecosystem service assessment and valuation (ESAV) seeks to generate data, evidence and arguments to ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem service values are factored into processes used to determine the ‘best’ use of land, resources and funds.
Protected areas are main drivers
Further on, it is important for selecting the most ‘profitable’ and ‘cost-effective’ development and investment options, or planning for more effective, equitable and sustainable biodiversity conservation.
The Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province, together with experts from the region, developed this regional document – ESAV Guidelines, which incorporates knowledge, experience and examples of good practices in Protected Area Establishment (PAE) and Protected Area Management (PAM) in the Western Balkans, with the focus on ecosystem services.
ESAV was hardly taken into consideration in the processes of PAE or PEM in the region
Proclaimed protected areas, as well as areas in process of protection, including planned and proposed NATURA 2000 sites, are main drivers of these ecosystem services. However, our experts’ research showed that ESAV was hardly taken into consideration in the processes of PAE or PEM within the Western Balkans countries, although there were few cases in which ecosystem services are mentioned, described or implied in some way.
Ecosystem services connect biodiversity, human wellbeing
On the other side, regular threats and overuse demand on a daily basis, such as resource exploitation in the region are getting new forms, induced by fast socio-economic changes in past decades. This is the moment where the concept of ecosystem services, as a link between biodiversity and human wellbeing, should be included as a part of decision-making processes.
Aim of the ESAV Guidelines is to be a useful tool for the institutions who are working on and preparing studies for the proclamation of protected areas and the management plans for protected areas in the Western Balkans. It shall provide guidance on how to integrate ecosystem services into the planning process, including laying out a series of steps for conducting ecosystem service assessment and valuation (ESAV) in the context of protected area planning.
Preparation of the ESAV Guidelines is a part of the project „Regional guidelines on ecosystem services assessment and valuation (ESAV) in processes of establishing and managing of protected areas (PAE and PAM) in Western Balkans” of the Open Regional Fund for South East Europe – Implementation of Biodiversity Agreements (ORF BDU), commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).