How to achieve landscapes in balance with the services of their ecosystems?

Governance of Sustainable Landscapes has been the topic of the last and 4th Interregional Training Workshop of Interreg Europe PROGRESS project, held in Florence (Tuscany, Italy). The event has been dual, with over 100 in-person and remote participants and speakers.

This aside has been the central question answered by the 7 speakers 3 presenters and the 4 PROGRESS good practice videos broadcasted during the event.

„From the Green Office of the XII. District Hegyvidék Municipality, Attila Varga, a project manager took part in the 4th ITW of the Progress project, who presented the Green Office as a good practice of community building in context with the management of municipal green space, its operation and activities. Among the presentations, the relevant GP to the Green Office, which can be adapted if necessary, is the “All Ireland Pollinator Plan”. It is important for the district to protect the pollinators in the urban environment, and therefore the Green Office has placed greater emphasis on it in recent years, thus adapting or even transferring some of the elements of the Irish example is expected. The experience of the Sincere project could also be useful for the district, as one of the largest green areas of the district XII. is the Normafa Park on the western side of Buda, 90% of which is forest area and Natura 2000 protected. The workshop provided excellent opportunities for networking and getting to know the partners, including colleagues from the Ministry of Agriculture, which could later be useful for everyone in connection with other programs, events and projects. ” – said Attila Varga, a staff member of the Green Office.

Marina Lauri (ANCI Toscana) opened, exemplifying how PROGRESS has started a policy debate towards inclusion of the ecosystem services concept in the forthcoming Italian law on mountain areas. The new MyFarm Harta video on community supported agriculture completed the opening.

Analysis, agreements and actions for landscapes and ecosystem services structured the three blocks of the workshop.

Analysing landscapes with transparency

The video introducing the first block of the workshop has been Red Faith, a methodology from Hungary using air borne technologies to improve efficient generation of forest data to be used for decision making.

This was followed by three presentations of analysis tools at different scales, moderated by partner Janis Zvirgzdins, from the Riga Technical University (Latvia). They showed a diversity of digital tools, from local virtual 3-D visualization of forests to guide logging and land use decisions (Markus Korhonen, Forest 2.0, Finland), to regional management approaches in grassland landscapes (Anda Ruskule, VivaGrass, Baltic countries) and a national multi-scale geographical system with common landscape data and comparable information across Ireland. The Irish methodology allows strategic environmental assessment and spatial planning to be opened and accessible to all stakeholders, thus changing the classical paradigm of complex GIS systems limited to expert teams. Evidence-based sensitivity maps, efficiency that saves time and cost, weighted outputs and removal of complex IT barriers “allow to consider the EMS-Environmental Sensitivity Mapping system a game changer, to advance practice by fostering participative, informed, and transparent decisions”, according to Ainhoa González, from the University College Dublin (Ireland).

The LIFE Viva Grass project brought together three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to conserve biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided by grasslands. This required the development of an integrated planning tool to support decision-making on ecosystem services and the sustainable management of agro-ecosystems. The resulting program will assist in the mapping and assessment of agro-ecosystem services from local to the national level; makes grassland management recommendations and provides multi-criteria decision support for planning.

“Participating in the program was rewarding professionally. All partners are involved in the assessment of ecosystem services. These studies should and can be examined at different scales (EU, national, regional and local), but the study of different ecosystem types also requires different processing. Different scales and types of ecosystems require different approaches, wide-ranging professional and sectoral collaborations while at the same time they present the experts with different challenges. The event brought many new thoughts and ideas to our work, the national ecosystem services assessment and mapping project.

The on-line tool of the Vivagrass LIFE project presented during the event is a very forward-looking development that we would like to explore more thoroughly. We have contacted the presenter and the professional staff so that we can examine whether the tool can be adapted to the Hungarian conditions (as a whole or possibly some sub-modules) in the mapping and presentation tasks of the Hungarian ecosystem assessments. Based on their feedback, it would be useful for them as well to cooperate and gather experience.

It was also inspiring to see concrete examples and solutions on the importance of dialogue between science and policy actors. This topic also relates to the project we coordinate. We consider it extremely important to provide a platform for ongoing dialogue and the dissemination of scientific results to policy and the general public. ” – Zsembery Zita, Kisné dr. Lívia Fodor,


Reaching agreements at the landscapes

Forests for Water in Catalonia video introduced the second block, a catchment-wide agreement process with a wide array of stakeholders, to create a payment for ecosystem services towards sustainable forest management to generate a quality water cycle in the catchment and reservoir.

Forests that Give Water, 5th GP Video

This block hosted two presentations on dialogue process towards agreements for more sustainable landscapes, moderated by Anabel Sánchez (CREAF, Catalonia, Spain). First the Italian local food system of Communities for Food and Agro-biodiversity (Massimo Rovai, Università di Pisa, Italy), promoted by policies as public-social agreements between públic authorities, non-profits and local consumers. Secondly, Annelies Broekman, (CREAF) has introduced several experiences on governance for adaptation, around rivers and coastal climate risks, with several papers and methodologies available on line, like the BeWater Project manual.

The example of CREAF from Catalonia was a collaboration in which 17 municipalities began working together after recognizing a climate change emergency in their region. A strategy has been developed and measures have been identified, in which experts have been involved. An observatory will be set up this year in Maresme, the initiator of the alliance, to monitor climate change and its effects.

This block has included a lively discussion between the three and the public on issues like the challenge to preserve ecosystem functioning at the light of transformative change, as non-linearity of processes happening at the local level. There is a need to act differently with institutional structures to allow changes to be incorporated. These demands going over the bottlenecks –Rovai showed a step by step approach to it–, and enlarging the favourable public and show the impacts of environmental risk happen and affect many people. To achieve this scenario, it is necessary to go over the comfort zone, according to Brokerman, and both stakeholders and researchers have to engage with other actors. They need to communicate adequately. Scientific knowledge is just as important as other knowledge and partners have to sit on the table with this in mind.


Acting for landscape sustainability

The workshop has ended with a block facilitated by Enrique Doblas, (CREAF), with two examples from Ireland (Blue Green City project, Bryan Riney, Southern Regional Assembly) and Hungary (The Green Office, Attila Varga, Municipality of Hegyvidék, Budapest).

This block has been framed by a video of one of the most acknowledged good practices of PROGRESS, the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, an extensive island wide approach to restoring good practices on access to flowering plants to reverse the decline of pollinating insects.

The presenters showed their approaches to integral action on nature based solutions in cities. The Small green space Stewardship Program in Hungary appears as an example of urban governance of ecosystem services, worth exploring in more depth. 

What the Good Practices of the partner countries had in common was that initiatives and interventions were based on collaboration and cooperation, and experience beyond the PRGORESS examples shows that this is the key to achieving real results in terms of conserving the natural environment and biodiversity.

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