OpenNESS – Operationalisation of Natural capital and Ecosystem Services: From concepts to real-world applications

OpenNESS is an European Union 7th framework programme that started 1.12.2012 and will end 31.5.2017 (duration 54 months). The programme is coordinated by Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The consortium of OpenNESS programme consists of  35 partners from 14 different European countries and four from ICPC countries (India, Brazil, Argentina and Kenya).

The concept of Ecosystem Services (ES) and Natural Capital (NC) provides a powerful way to examine the interaction between nature (ecosystems) and human actions (socio-cultural systems). Despite improved understanding of the links between ecosystem health, provision of ecosystem services and human well-being, research and applications are still largely exploratory. We need more empirical studies and transdisciplinary research to apply ESS and NC concepts into practical management and decision-making. OpenNESS aims to develop innovative and practical ways of applying ES and NC in land, water and urban management. The programme will identify how, where, and when the concepts can be most efficiently used to improve planning and management to become more sustainable.

OpenNESS adopts a transdisciplinary research approach, which includes stakeholders in defining research objectives and strategies, and enhancing learning processes between research producers and end-users of scientific knowledge. The OpenNESS approach is based on a iterative cycle of methodological development and refinement linked to applications in a set of real-world case studies that are a base of the programme (Fig. 1). The objectives of OpenNESS are divided into six work packages (WP1-6).

WP1: Key challenges and conceptual frameworks. The package will provide operational frameworks for the application of the concepts to the case studies in other work packages.

WP2: Regulatory frameworks and drivers of change. The package will examine how existing and forthcoming EU regulatory frameworks can enhance or restore the benefits derived from ES and NC using multi-scale scenario approaches.

WP3: Biophysical control of ecosystem services. The aim is develop and refine approaches for mapping and modelling biophysical control of ES that can be used to improve best management practises for sustaining ES and biodiversity conservation while in the same time facing multiple uncertain drivers.

WP4: Valuation of the demand for ecosystem services. The aim od the package is to develop hybrid methodologies that address trade-offs, synergies, and conflicting interests and values in the use of ES through a combination of monetary, non-monetary and deliberative methods within multi-criteria and Bayesian approaches to decision support.

WP5: Place-based exploration of ES and NC concepts. The methodologies and conceptual frameworks developed in WP1, 3 and 4 will be used in case studies of sustainable urban planning, regional planning, forest management, integrated river basin management and coastal management. To work collaboratively with stakeholders is a key issue to identify the problems they face when operationalising the ES and NC everyday decision-making and planning processes.

WP6: Integration: Synthesis and Menu of Multi-Scale Solutions. The package will translate results of five other work packages into policy recommendations and integrate outputs in a associated datasets i.e. Clearinghouse that provides a central web portal, easy to access and is available for ES users, managers and political decision-makers.

The Urban Ecology Research Group (UERG) in the Department of Environmental Sciences will take part in the sustainable urban planning case study (WP5). There are four urban cases around Europe (Finland, Norway, Slovakia, Spain). Professor Jari Niemelä is the case study leader of the Finnish urban case and doctor Vesa-Yli-Pelkonen is working as a researcher in the project. The case study is Sibbesborg master plan area.

Urban case studies of the OpenNESS project are coordinated by doctor Tarja Söderman, senior researcher at SYKE. Senior researcher Leena Kopperoinen (SYKE) is also participating to Sibbesborg case study.


More information at the project website: