Increasing visibility of ecosystem services
Ecosystem services are services from nature which improve human wellbeing. Examples include the provision of clean water, clean air and raw materials. Nature draws down carbon dioxide, thereby contributing to climate protection, and provides us with a place to enjoy and relax. Each petal of the AgoraNatura blossom signifies one of six ecosystem services that is supported by a project.
What the blossom shows
Each petal represents an ecosystem service. To assist with the visualisation, each petal also has a specific colour. If a petal is white (blank), it means that the effect of this ecosystem service is not being measured or addressed by a project.
The shading of the petal indicates the importance of a particular service to the project area. There are three degrees of shading. The pattern of the shading signifies whether an ecosystem service is being supported by a project or whether it already exists on-site:
- Full-colour shading represents outcomes that will be achieved by the project.
- Striped shading represents outcomes which exist independent of the project. These are therefore not ascribed to an AgoraNatura project but are still helpful for evaluating the biological diversity and quality of ecosystem services in the area.
Imagine that this blossom belongs to the project of an organic farm, which is taking actions on its cropland areas. The most important goal is to preserve the highly valuable diversity of wild, arable weeds.
- The full-colour shaded section of the petal “Plant diversity” signifies that the project has the capacity to preserve very many or very rare arable weeds at the site of the project.
- The striped, light-green section of this petal signifies that the organic production methods on the land would still contribute somewhat to the plant diversity, independent of the project. Without the project however, as the white tip of the petal shows, the habitat conditions would not be favourable and the population of arable weeds would most probably decrease.
These specific actions do not just impact plant diversity. Other outcomes include creating favourable habitats for wildlife (dark green) and improved groundwater quality (blue). These petals are striped since the organic production methods on this site are already enhancing both of these services. The blossom shows that, while not all outcomes can be achieved through a project’s financing, they are at least being supported by it.
Each ecosystem service in detail
This means that the growth of diverse plant communities or endangered wild plant species is preserved or promoted. For example, in the case of used cropland this could mean longer periods between planting and harvesting of crops, no weeding and a significant reduction of fertiliser input. The farmer has lower yields but provides threatened species, such as lamb‘s succory or ragged robin, with good growing conditions.
This service focuses on creating favourable habitats for wildlife. This means the opposite of drab fields of monocultures and featureless landscapes. Landscape elements such as stones or deadwood, or investing in diversified plant populations or forage land, help to create habitats for birds, amphibians and co.
Genetic diversity within species is the third pillar of biological diversity. It determines how well plants and animals adapt to habitat conditions, environmental influences, or diseases. The propagation of rare species of fruit trees or sowing flower strips from local seeds are examples of targeted actions to protect genetic diversity
Insects such as bees, bumblebees, beetles and butterflies play a central role in pollinating crops and wild plants. They make up a key part of multiple food chains, preserve habitats, and sustain our own food system, making them indispensable to all life on earth. Projects which commit to this service plant flowers which bloom all year round, ideally perennial wildflowers. They also set up elements which provide breeding grounds and winter refuge for pollinating insects.
Many ecosystems are especially good at drawing down carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Wet peatlands are the best carbon dioxide stores, but grazed grassland on peat areas that maintain a high groundwater level are also good for the climate. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such areas should remain wet or be rewetted. This greatly limits the land use options, like the example given before for agricultural use.
This petal shows that a project reduces the amount of nutrient runoff into groundwater or surface waters, such as rivers or lakes. For example, a farmer might achieve this by rejecting the use of herbicides, reducing fertiliser input, or by keeping fewer livestock than the carrying capacity of the land. When it comes to water protection, less is more!
It is wonderful to be able to connect with the diversity, uniqueness, and beauty of nature, and it is important for us all. That is why the Natuurplus-Standaard aims to make each AgoraNatura project experienceable. You can therefore visit a project in person or follow it online on AgoraNatura. If you see a white star in the middle of the blossom, this means that the project offers an interaction with the project, for example a special on-site experience, or an exclusive online opportunity to interact with the project.