ECoMAP Modelling Ecological state and Condition Maps to support knowledge-based decision-making in Area management and spatial Planning

Project Description

The stark realities of the global climate and biodiversity crisis pose imminent global threats to biodiversity, to ecosystems and environments, and to human lives and livelihoods. The major driver of this dual crisis is human land-use and land-use changes, which are of a staggering magnitude: We now live on a planet where 40% of the global terrestrial photosynthetic productivity is sequestered by people and our crops and livestock, where 75% of the land area is shaped by land-use, and where the fluxes of energy and matter that regulate the global climate are dominated by human-induced forcings. It is well established that land-use and land-use changes are major threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and services. Despite having a comprehensive, well-established, relevant and accessible consensus knowledge-base on climate, biodiversity and ecosystems, the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems is accelerating, and climate and environmental concerns are more often than not trumped by other societal interests.

How can we increase the impact of the scientific evidence in the science-policy interface? ECoMAP builds on the premise that one important cause of why we fail to implement environmental policy goals effectively, is that the necessary knowledge and information is not accessible at the scale and format relevant to the decision-makers holding the key to land-use transformation. In particular, land-use decisions are often made locally, by municipalities or local businesses and land-owners. These stakeholders operate in complex landscapes with local variety in ecosystems, environments, and societal needs and drivers. They lack access to relevant data on a sufficiently fine spatial scale, they lack knowledge to interpret and use this data, and they lack opportunities to connect the consequences of local decisions on national environmental objectives.

Whilst data on nature and nature values are becoming more available, they are often not at the right scale and resolution for decision-making processes in area policy, which is important part of this implementation problem. Several parallel processes in Norway are now ready to be harnessed to remedy these knowledge gaps. In recent years, Norway has implemented a new categorization system for Nature in Norway (NiN), developed a framework for assessing ecosystem condition, and in December 2020 the Ecological Base Maps, an infrastructure that will collect and present mapped data on nature from many sources in a common interface, will be launched.

However, the mere existence of the data and knowledge is not enough. To effectively guide policy implementation and management, the knowledge needs to be available at the spatial and temporal scales relevant for decision-makers to set SMART goals against which actions and decisions can be assessed. This requires scalable and mappable tools - opportunities for which are only now becoming attainable as improved understanding of the characteristics, variables and indicators of ecological condition meets rapid growth in biodiversity data, remote sensing and other technologies, ecoinformatics, and open science.

ECoMAP will harness existing frameworks and data, and develop and optimize the necessary solutions to bridge the science-policy implementation gap presenting both fundamental and applied research challenges of international interest and relevance.

The main objective of ECoMAP is to integrate new knowledge from the process-based and the spatial domains of ecology to produce robust and applicable tools for evidence-based management of biodiversity and ecosystems in a changing world. To achieve this, we will:

  • Objective 1: Gather stakeholders from across the science-policy interface to develop shared problem understanding of the needs and opportunities for improving knowledge-based decision-making in nature management and spatial planning (WP1).
  • Objective 2: Develop methods for high-resolution mapping of biodiversity (WP2) and ecodiversity (WP3) variables of relevance for different dimensions of ecological condition.
  • Objective 3: Develop methods for quantifying the resilience of these variables to understand the vulnerability of ecosystems and ecological condition to environmental changes (WP4).
  • Objective 4: Evaluate the utility of the maps and tools and identify opportunities for future development through ground-truthing (WP2-4), integration into user-targeted interfaces (WP5), and benchmarking with stakeholders in Norway and internationally (WP6).
The Norwegian System for Ecosystem Assessment, as implemented in the Index-Based Ecological Condition Assessment methodology (IBECA). IBECA assesses ecological condition in terms of seven broad characteristics of ecosystems, which each can be represented by a series of indicators derived from biodiversity and ecodiversity variables. IBECA has been empirically tested using existing data at the county level (NB: International publication is under revision).