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b) models need to include feedbacks and interactions among the complex chains linking biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and ecosystem services to socio-economic processes, and aid in understanding of “tipping points”; 112

c) a framework for linking biodiversity and ecosystem services to human well-being needs to be developed and incorporated in models; 112

d) there is the need to develop models that can map the flow of a range of ecosystem services so that the spatial disconnect between where services are produced and where people benefit is better addressed; 112

e) a new conceptual basis, based on risk or probability approaches, might be needed to model regulating and supporting ecosystem services; 112

f) models need to realistically incorporate multiple drivers to better represent global change impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services; 112

g) models need to incorporate dynamics and be process-based instead of the currently available statistical, deterministic models; 112

h) models should be evaluated to assess their capabilities and limitations, not least because they are complex systems with many components; 112

i) models need further testing through systematic comparison of outputs generated by different models and by multiple simulations with the same model for past, present and future conditions; and 112

j) the ability of models to simulate past and present situations needs to be tested against data on past and current biodiversity and ecosystem services. 112

150. Meanwhile, in a report on scenarios and models for exploring future trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services changes commissioned by the European Commission, the authors reviewed in detail 41 models identified through literature and internet search, and personal knowledge. Comparative information on these models is included in the project report, and information on the models was further analysed and summarised with respect to a number of characteristics. Preliminary conclusions include the following with respect to ecosystem services and human well being in particular: 112

a) there is no single model covering socio-economic development, policy input, environmental and land use change, and biodiversity and ecosystem services for terrestrial and aquatic systems together; 112

b) multi-model combinations are needed to generate comprehensive and consistent results, with economic as well as biophysical modelling of water and plant growth, and natural and agricultural systems. the availability of data for different ecosystems is a significant constraint on ecosystem service modelling, as they are generally scarce and on a very coarse scale; 112

c) little is known about critical thresholds/ time lags between biophysical effects and ecosystem service impacts and recovery potential, and consequently these issues/processes are not addressed in models; 112

d) there is a challenge in incorporating human managed lands, including various management options, as compared to natural systems; 112

e) models often omit feedback between environmental condition and socio-economic development, making it impossible to estimate the benefits of measures to maintain ecosystem services; and 112

f) none of the models cover biodiversity risks and likely associated losses of ecosystem services resulting from invasive alien species with the exception of climate change induced biome changes. 112


151. In addition they concluded that global models cannot practically include the small-scale heterogeneity of a landscape that is necessary for drawing conclusions on pollination and pest-control effects, and regional models have the advantage that they can account for relevant aspects of global economics and policies, and developments like climate change while they also relate to local processes and conditions. Also models with a smaller geographic coverage offer the possibility of including much more meaningful management and policy options. Sufficient detail is not available at the global scale and effects of options and policies can only be estimated by crude proxies and general parameter estimates. 112

152. These findings are highly consistent with those that arose from experience with the MA where it was observed that “explicit models of coupled social–ecological systems were essential for research, synthesis, and projection of the consequences of management actions”. The authors went on to recommend that a key research need was to improve quantitative modelling across a range of social–ecological topics, noting in particular that: 113

a) integrated, quantitative models of social–ecological systems do not match the scope of existing conceptual and qualitative models; 113

b) existing ecosystem service models were developed to address particular sectors (e.g. water supply, agriculture, fisheries) or particular intersections of issues (e.g., biodiversity and land use change); 113

c) models for sectors must be coupled with projections from other models of climate, demography, macroeconomic development, and other drivers to assess or project ecosystem services; 113

d) it would be far better to have models that correspond in scope and content to the conceptual frameworks used by the MA or future assessments; and 113

e) this model development should be done in a research setting, not under the stringent time constraints of an assessment. 113

Other reviews have come to similar conclusions. Between them these reviews provide a comprehensive assessment of areas in which models need to be improved in order to increase their value in supporting decision-making processes. Comparative information on the models is provided in the referenced reports, which will all be publicly available by the last quarter of 2009. 113

The role of scenarios in demonstrating possible futures 113

a) baseline trend scenarios (predictive scenarios), which assume that current trends will continue in the future, and may include policy variants based on near-future decision alternatives; 113

b) normative scenarios (pathway or vision scenarios), which describe a desirable future or set a specific goal for the future and explore possible ways to reach that goal; and 113

c) explorative scenarios (forecasting or descriptive scenarios), which work the other way around, and are created to forecast the effect of specified measures (policies) on future development and conditions. 113


155. In an ongoing review of scenarios and models for exploring future trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services changes commissioned by the European Commission, due to be published shortly, the authors reviewed a wide range of scenarios. Comparative information on these scenarios is included in the project report, and information on the scenarios was further analysed and summarised with respect to a number of characteristics. Preliminary conclusions include the following: 113

a) the most appropriate or useful scenario approach depends on the questions to be addressed, and therefore these need to be carefully thought through and documented before trying to use a scenario approach; 114

b) current scenario approaches do not adequately distinguish between different types of land management, although management types are expected to have important consequences for the delivery of ecosystem services within human-managed land; 114

c) while for most models climate change and land use change were found to be the key input variables, the description of scenarios focuses on drivers such as technological development, human population development, economics including trade and policies, therefore there is at present a potential disconnect; and 114

d) socio-economic models are necessary to translate the scenario drivers to the pressures, however, deriving quantitative input variables from primarily narrative scenarios is a crucial task and the process is often not well documented. 114

156. These preliminary conclusions, together with those for models identified in the previous section, suggest the need for further elaboration of a range of the relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem services on one hand and socio-economic issues on the other, built on a more robust understanding of the interrelationships. This will potentially increase the value of scenarios in helping to use science in a manner that better supports the decision making processes through illustration of the implications of policy alternatives. 114


157. Comparative information on currently used scenarios is provided in the referenced report, which will all be publicly available by the last quarter of 2009. 114

Indicators of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services 114

e) a clear strategy for using indicators in informing policy discussions, delivering multiple messages into all sectors, and demonstrating relevance of biodiversity to human wellbeing. 115

a) for most ecosystem services there are currently few if any suitable indicators for monitoring the actual delivery of services; 115

b) the indicators required will need to communicate policy relevant information readily about a complex issue of not only the status and trends of ecosystem services, but also flows; 115

c) there is limited or no data available for ecosystem service indicators; and 115

d) not all ecosystem services are quantifiable (for example the aesthetic benefits people receive from ecosystems differ greatly between people and are dependent on a number of different factors, for which a value or number cannot easily be assigned). 116

B.9.3 Assessments 116

169. Assessments are formal efforts to gather, review and synthesize selected knowledge with a view toward making it publicly available in a form useful for decision making. In the recent years, scientific environmental assessments have grown in number, have become more comprehensive and systematic and have become the science-policy element most attention has been given to. 116

170. During the last decade, there has been a proliferation of assessments relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services, at global and sub-global scales. Key amongst recent global assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services have been the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), the 4th Global Environment Outlook (GEO4), the IPCC 4th assessment report (AR4), the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (CAWMA), the 2nd Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO2), the 2005 Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA), and the global Assessment of Peatlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change. Each of these is described briefly in Annex Q. 116

171. Over time the global assessments have increasingly aimed to be more integrated in the manner in which biodiversity and ecosystems services issues are assessed, and they have increasingly been designed to be relevant, credible and legitimate. However, they vary considerably in thematic focus and scope, in their design and processes, and in the ways in which biodiversity and ecosystem services are integrated. For example: 116

a) The thematic focus of recent global assessments varies between those focusing strictly on biodiversity assessment, such as the GBO or IUCN Red List assessments, those encompassing a broad ecosystem service assessment, such as the MA and GEO, and those focusing on a narrower range of specific ecosystem services, such as FRA, GIWA, IAASTD, LADA. 116

b) There have also been an increasing number of sub-global assessments conducted and planned in the last decade, at scales from continental to local communities. The MA, GIWA, GEO4 and IAASTD explicitly included sub-global (in most cases regional, and in the case of the MA some multi-scale) assessment elements. 116

c) Most recent and ongoing assessments evaluate both environmental and socio-economic factors. Only one of the ongoing global assessments, the GBO, additionally evaluates the implementation of a specific corresponding policy mechanism (the CBD) for its impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services. 116

d) Some, such as the MA, GIWA and TEEB, were designed as one-off assessments that could be repeated in the future should the demand and resources exist. Others, such as GEO, GBO, IPCC, and FRA, are part of ongoing assessment initiatives (see Annex Q). 116

e) Some, such as the MA, the IPCC and GEO, involve a broad spectrum of the scientific community, whilst others, such as the GBO, FRA and TEEB, are based on contributions from a more selective group of experts (see Annex Q). Also the breadth of stated target audiences varies considerably between assessments. 116

f) A number of recent global assessments, such as GEO4, and the IPCC 4th assessment, have been overseen by intergovernmental governance bodies, providing significant legitimacy for their findings amongst national governments. In the case of the MA and IAASTD, the assessments were overseen by a multi-stakeholder board, including governmental, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders. 116

172. However, despite all these advances in assessment efforts related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, there remain a range of gaps and obstacles significantly impeding the science-policy interface’s ability to coherently gather, review, synthesize and communicate information on biodiversity and ecosystem services at global, regional and national level: 116

a) Many assessment initiatives have been limited by data and information availability. This is the case at all geographic scales for a range of ecosystem services and for biodiversity. Gaps in data for biodiversity and non-provisioning ecosystem services are particularly widespread, and in many cases prevent more comprehensive assessment being completed at global, regional, national or local scales. 116

b) In terms of scope and coverage of ecosystems considered by biodiversity and ecosystem services assessments, there has been relatively less assessment focussed in some key biomes and system types, including islands, mountains, wetlands and urban systems. Relatively less attention has also been given to regulating and supporting services (such as prevention of flooding or nutrient cycling), and there remain key gaps in assessing the interlinkages between biodiversity and climate change (such as the link between biodiversity and carbon sequestration). 117

c) There remains relatively little coherence or coordination between approaches to assessment within and between scales and thematic approaches and there is a lack of core set of common, scaleable variables for better linking assessments at different geographic scales, and with different but related thematic foci. Even those assessments that are well networked within the MA follow-up process make use of a wide variety of data and indicators within a diversity of thematic scope and geographical coverage, which complicates the synthesis of lessons across assessment initiatives, and hampers the process of drawing conclusions relating to multi-scale aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services. 117

d) There is a wide variety of and little coherence within conceptual frameworks used for assessment design and implementation, although at a global scale for recent integrated assessments, and in many regional and national assessments, there has been an increasing convergence on variations of the framework developed in the MA global and sub-global assessments (an ecosystem services and human well-being focused variation of the DPSIR framework). 117

e) Only very few recent assessments, including the MA, IPCC, LADA and GBO, have been explicitly endorsed by those MEAs that they seek to inform. Of the assessments explicitly endorsed or otherwise officially recognized by MEAs, only the IPCC and GBO are anticipated to be repeated in the future - the remainder were conceived as one-off initiatives. Other assessments, such as GEO and GIWA have been endorsed by other decision-making, or intergovernmental fora such as the UNEP Governing Council. 117


173. Ongoing initiatives, such as the MA follow-up process in general (see Annex B) and the forthcoming publication of the MA methodology manual in particular, are likely to help considerably in bringing coherence to assessment process and design in the future. However, there remains the need for a common conceptual and institutional framework to coherently assess information on biodiversity and ecosystem services across all relevant sectors and at global, regional and national levels. 117

174. Over the recent years there has been an extensive process to review assessments in marine environments, in anticipation of a Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the state of the Marine Environment (See Annex C. Drawing from a this broad analysis of assessments, those elements that are said to most successfully lead to an effective assessment include: 117

a) a holistic conceptual framework that considers the multiple and interacting pressures on biodiversity and ecosystems at and across all scales; 117

b) regular review of assessment product to support adaptive management; 117

c) use of rigorous science and the promotion of scientific excellence; 117

d) regular and proactive analysis to ensure that emerging issues, significant changes and knowledge gaps are detected at an early stage; 117

e) continuous improvement in scientific and assessment capacity; 117

f) effective links with policy makers and other users, reflected in communication, products and formal recognition and endorsement by official policy processes; 117

g) inclusiveness with respect to communication and engagement with all stakeholders through appropriate means for their participation; and 117


h) transparency and accountability for the process and products. 117

B.9.4 Early warning of emerging issues of concern 117

175. New issues for biodiversity can arise from a diversity of sources including as a result of scientific research or monitoring (e.g. the discovery of the impact of a new invasive species) or an emerging issue in the policy arena. New issues can also arise from developments in other sectors that might be important for biodiversity, such as the potential impacts of economic trends, and emerging markets. 118

176. It is widely known that the global community has responded too late to many environmental problems and hazards. A key feature in this has been the length of gap between problems being identified in science and a response being taken. Though adequate information may be available, information might not have been brought to the attention of appropriate decision-makers early enough, or has been discounted for one reason or another. Sometimes ‘loud and late’ warnings (e.g. on asbestos, the Great Lakes, sulphur dioxide and acidification) have been effectively ignored by decision-makers because of short-term economic and political interactions. Costs of such inaction have been most recently highlighted by the Stern report on climate change. 118

177. There is a growing number of initiatives that help to prioritise issues and to explore the likely significance and relevance of emerging issues relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services. Providing they are firmly based on the common knowledge base and adequately linked to decision-making processes, such initiatives provide a valuable tool in informing development of policy in identifying issues that need to be addressed, in helping assess the likely significant of emerging issues and in helping to prioritize both research priorities and policy actions. Important tools of science-policy interfaces for dealing with emerging issues of concern are: horizon scanning processes, which involve the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely future developments which are at the margins of current thinking and planning (potentially including the use of scenarios), and futures techniques, by which the results of horizon scanning exercises are further explored. 118


178. Examples of such processes widely range in scope and in the extent to which they have specific links to policy processes, and are described further in Annex R). At the same time a number of MEAs have taken steps to improve the effectiveness of their assessment of and response to emerging policy issues (e.g. by Ramsar’s STRP and the CBD SBSTTA), so that their scientific advisory bodies and processes can more effectively deal with new issues not previously on their agendas. 118

179. However, there remain significant challenges for processes interfacing science and policy in addressing emerging issues, which are often of complex, contentious or controversial nature: 118

a) Whilst some initiatives offer an independent and highly creative exploration of futures, the usefulness of such initiatives can be limited if they do not adequately communicate and link with decision making processes, if they present mixed messages, or do not answer the more urgent questions that policy makers may have – potentially reducing impact and therefore the attention the results receive. 118

b) Where such horizon scanning and futures processes are introduced into scientific advisory bodies and processes, care must be taken to ensure that they are not only relevant to the process, but that they are also the result of legitimate and transparent processes so that they are seen as being credible in the sense defined earlier (including issues such as independence and peer review). 118

c) Only very few ongoing mandated assessment processes provide flexible mechanisms to respond to demands from MEAs for targeted or rapid integrated assessments on emerging issues relating to biodiversity and the full spectrum of ecosystem services; on the contrary, the long time-scale periodicity of global assessments can preclude responding to many emerging issues in a timely manner to guide decision-making, even for those selected issues which are covered by such assessments. 118


180. Among the key gaps apparent from a review of current horizon scanning processes and futures techniques are the following. The implication of not addressing such gaps is a reduced preparedness for issues that might arise in the future. The key gaps are: 118

a) Conceptual approach: The lack of widely applicable and broadly accepted conceptual and institutional frameworks for horizon scanning and futures techniques that are responsive to the needs of decision makers and concerns of knowledge holders, are credible as regards their implementation, and are legitimately linked to policy processes. 118

b) Sharing of experience and results: The need for wider sharing of knowledge and experience on horizon scanning and futures techniques, by those countries and organizations that have fairly well-established mechanisms for identifying and assessing new issues for biodiversity and are producing useful outputs that international mechanisms could draw on. 118

c) Capacity: The lack of capacity at national level, in particular in developing countries, to conduct horizon scanning processes and apply futures techniques to assist in their own planning processes. 119



181. It is also important to ensure that when new issues emerge the scientific community is able to respond rapidly to information of scientific advisory bodies and processes rising from these emerging issues, so that they are better able to inform policy development and decision making. 119

182. There may also be value in exploring the potential for increased coordination between existing horizon scanning and futures initiatives supporting biodiversity science-policy processes, and for coordination in use of the outcomes of these processes. This is true across the range of scales and sectors. 119



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