Title: Global change impacts on ecosystem services: a spatially explicit assessment for Europe
Publisher: Pensoft Publishers
Publication Year: 2016
JRC N°: JRC102654
ISSN: 2367-8194
URI: http://oneecosystem.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=9990
DOI: 10.3897/oneeco.1.e9990
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The widely reported impacts of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity pose a threat also to the supply of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services (ES) arise when ecological structures or functions contribute toward meeting a human demand. Global change is impacting biodiversity and ecosystems properties and is therefore likely to affect the supply of ES and, consequently, human well-being. Assessing the possible bio-physical impacts of the ongoing and future changes in climate is relevant for both designing mitigation and adaptation policies. Yet undergoing a comprehensive climate impact assessment continues to be a demanding research challenge due to the large knowledge gaps, for instance on impact areas such as the consequences of ecosystem services. Here we present a preliminary assessment of the changes in ES as a function of projected changes in climate and land use / land cover (LULC). The assessment is carried out for the mainland of the 28 Member States (MS) of the European Union (EU-28). The focus of the analysis is on regulating ecosystem services, which are directly dependent on the proper functioning of ecosystems, they are not traded on markets so that their contribution to human well-being is more difficult to assess. We present an assessment of changes in ES provision for three regulating services (air quality regulation, soil erosion prevention, and water flow regulation) and for one cultural service (outdoor recreation), although the last one was modelled mainly as a function of landscape’s characteristics. Furthermore, we assessed the monetary value of climate-induced changes in ES provision, using forests as an example. Forests support the provision of many ES and they are widely distributed across EU-28. The change in ES provision was carried out under the "business-as-usual" climate change scenario SRES A1B. Changes were expressed as a positive or negative percentage variation relative to the present situation. Land conversion was found to have a much stronger impact on the capacity of the land to support ES than climate change. When considering both climate change and LULC change the expected variation ranged between -100% and +100%. These results are explained by the key role that LULC plays in the delivery of regulating ES. The sensitivity of ES to climate change is smaller than that to LULC change, with variations ranging at the most between -27% and +27%. However, these changes are the most relevant to assess the economic impacts of climate change on the provision of ES. Therefore, when attaching monetary values to ES provided by forests, we presented results from changes induced by climate-only, thus they should be interpreted as a partial forecast. While changes in total economic value of individual forest patches were relatively small with respect to the absolute estimates, extrapolated over the total forest size losses and gains are expected to be much more important. About 42% of land in Europe is covered by forest and other wooded land and, therefore, small changes in the supply of ES would result in very high gains or losses in economic value in absolute terms. The value function we used for this assessment considered economies of scale with larger forests having lower economic value per unit area. An EU-wide assessment would therefore benefit from a spatial allocation of the forested area into forest patches which can be valued separately. There are clearly major challenges to address within the area of climate-change impacts, yet the scale of global change requires prompt actions to mitigate or adapt to the new conditions. This work, therefore, represents perforce a preliminary spatially explicit assessment. Further research is needed not only to expand the analysis to other ES, but also to incorporate processes and scaling properties of the systems considered, as they become available.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

Files in This Item:
There are no files associated with this item.

Items in repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.