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About the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework

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THE SEQ ECOSYSTEM SERVICES PROJECT

The South East Queensland (SEQ) Ecosystem Services Project was initiated in 2005 as a collaborative project between SEQ Catchments, the Queensland Government's Department of Infrastructure and Planning (now the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning) and the University of Sunshine Coast. The main aim of the Project was to develop an 'agreed' framework for assessing the ecosystem services derived from the SEQ region (the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework - the Framework); and to incorporate this information into natural resource management, policy and planning.

The Project is coordinated by SEQ Catchments, the non-government, natural resource management organisation for SEQ. The Project has received financial support from the Australian Government (through the Caring for our Country Program); the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning; the University of Queensland; and Brisbane City, Moreton Bay and Redland Local Governments. As well, technical support has been provided by the University of Sunshine Coast and Brisbane Regional Environment Council. The Australian National University supports this project through a PhD Scholarship for the Project Manager and other travel and technical inputs.

To date, the focus of the Project has been to identify, measure and value the ecosystem services derived from SEQ. Incorporating this information into mainstream decision making will necessarily require collaboration between all stakeholders including individuals, community groups, business, industry, landholders, developers, landscape architects, government, planners and policy makers at the national, state and local scales. The objective of the Project is to encourage a consistent approach to assessing ecosystem services in SEQ through the use of the Framework. This will enable us to better monitor and manage for ecosystem service provision and the well-being of the SEQ community. 

  

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FRAMEWORK

SEQ stakeholders participating in Think Tank 1

Peer referred participants in Expert Panel 2

A participatory approach to developing the Framework was applied. Expert local knowledge was recognised as an essential input to the Framework to provide detailed local knowledge and to address areas of limited information or data availability. It was considered the development of the Framework should involve a broad range of Experts and potential End Users of the Framework. In short, those most likely to apply the Framework were involved in the development of the Framework. In all, more than 190 individuals from government and non-government organisations have participated in the process through Steering Groups, Expert Panels, Think Tanks and as Authors in this website.

The role of the Steering Group has been to ensure the outcomes of the Project comply with current planning and policy requirements and are practical and in accordance with current organisational structures and goals. Expert Panel participants are peer referred. Their role has been to develop the information to support the Framework. Each step in the development of the Framework has been handled in a professionally facilitated ‘Think Tank’ exercise, comprising an open forum of stakeholders working at national, state and local scales. The Think Tank approach has allowed a wider range of perspectives on the theoretical and practical application of the ecosystem services concept; an opportunity to scope the possible alignment of the Framework with other agency/organisational plans, policy and practices; and to further develop and review each stage of the Framework as it evolves. Website Authors are those who were peer referred and agreed to assist in pulling all the information developed to support the Framework together in the form of narratives for this website.

A full list of participants involved in the development of the Framework is available from the Quick Index, or by clicking on the link provided here. As well, the Quick Index also provides more information on the process applied and the structure of the Framework in two published manuscripts.

  

THE STRUCTURE OF THE FRAMEWORK

It was agreed by SEQ stakeholders that the Framework should be predominantly based on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) coordinated by the United Nations Environment Program and developed by over 1 300 leading scientists from across the globe. As the MA was developed at the global scale, it was recognised modifications were required to develop a framework for the regional scale and specifically for SEQ. Research conducted by Rudolf de Groot, Robert Costanza, Manfred Max-Neef, Abraham Maslow and Ian Beitz were important pieces of literature to feed into the Framework. However, numerous other pieces of academic literature; management, policy and planning documents; information from factsheets and community reports; mapping data sets; and photos were required to develop the Framework and deliver it through this website. Click here for a full reference list. 

Currently, the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework consists of 3 main elements: Four Components for Assessment; Relative Maginitude Scores; and a Series of Maps to support the Framework. These 3 main elements are discussed briefly below.

 

          1.     Four Components for Assessment

The Framework lists and describes 4 key Components for Assessment: Ecosystem Reporting Categories, Ecosystem Functions, Ecosystem Services and Constituents of Well-being. It is recognised that ecosystems contribute to human well-being (through the delivery of ecosystem services) and that human well-being (which is also derived through social and economic factors) impacts on the use and condition of ecosystems. It is impossible to describe all the complex and non-linear interactions between ecosystems, social and economic factors and humans. Figure 1 below presents a linear simplification of how ecosystems  contribute to human well-being.

  

Figure 1: The four Components for Assessment under the SEQ Ecosystem Services Framework

 

 i. Ecosystem Reporting Categories
For ecosystem service assessment purposes, ecosystems in the SEQ region are grouped by similarities in climatic conditions, geophysical condition, dominant use by humans, surface cover, species composition and resource management systems and institutions. These are termed Ecosystem Reporting Categories. Thirty two (32) Ecosystem Reporting Categories have been described and assessed under the Framework.

ii. Ecosystem Functions
For the purposes of the Framework, ecosystem functions are defined as 'the biological, geochemical and physical processes and components that take place or occur within an ecosystem'. Ecosystem functions are important for self regulating ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity for its own sake, they may or may not contribute to benefits for people. Nineteen (19) ecosystem functions have been incorporated into the Framework.

iii. Ecosystem Services
Ecosystem services are defined in the Framework as 'the goods and services provided by ecosystems that benefit, sustain and support the well-being of people'. This definition was adapted from the MA and describes the goods and services provided by both natural and semi-natural ecosystems. Twenty eight (28) ecosystem services have been incorporated into the Framework. 

iv. Constituents of Well-being
In the Framework, the value of ecosystem services is determined by its contribution to the well-being of the SEQ community. Constituents of Well-being are described as 'aspects of human well-being that are improved through the use of ecosystem services or the knowledge that these services exist'. Fifteen (15) constituents of well-being have been incorporated into the Framework.

  

        2.     Relative Magnitude Scores  

Now that we can identify and describe the main components in an ecosystem services assessment (Ecosystem Reporting Categories, ecosystem functions, ecosystem services and constituents of well-being), we need to understand in greater detail their relationships and interactions.

To construct the Framework, peer-referred scientific Experts were invited to participate in the assessment process through individual activities and in multi-disciplinary workshops. Three Expert Panels have been held to date and two comparison workshops. Experts were asked to respond to the following questions, allocating scores designed to act as proxies for physical quantities, levels or strength of the inter-connections between the key components of the Framework:

1/ Relative to the other Ecosystem Reporting Categories in the list, what is the relative magnitude each Ecosystem Reporting Category performs each ecosystem function?

2/ Relative to the other ecosystem functions in the list, what is the relative magnitude each ecosystem function provides each ecosystem service? and

3/ Relative to the other Ecosystem Services in the list, what is the relative magnitude each Ecosystem Service contributes to each Constituent of Well-being?

Scores were allocated within an allowable range of 0 to 5, with the following interpretations:

0 = no relationship between components;
1 = a very weak or very indirect relationship;
2 = a weak or indirect relationship;
3 = a strong indirect relationship or a weak direct relationship;
4 = a strong direct relationship; and
5 = the strongest relationship.

Social science Experts were asked to provide scores on a scale of 1-10 indicating the relative importance of each constituent of well-being to the SEQ community, where a score of 10 indicates a very important constituent of well-being and a score of 1 a relatively less important one. More information on the scoring is supplied in each of the webpages corresponding to each of the four Components for Assessment. Webpages display the relevant scores for each item assessed under each Component. A comparison table across all Components is provided in the Quick Index.

Given the scale of assessment (regional) and the diversity of ways humans can influence the different ecosystems in each Ecosystem Reporting Category, these scores do not take into account the condition of the ecosystems. Rather, an ecosystem is imagined to be in 'good or pristine condition'. Research is currently being conducted on the relationship between ecosystem condition and its capacity to perform functions and therefore provide ecosystem services. This information will be incorporated in the Framework when complete.

As well, these scores are meant to exclude the effects of human inputs to the system. Rather, each ecosystem is viewed as a 'self-regulating system'. For example, a score developed to assess the relative magnitude an Ecosystem Reporting Category performs the ecosystem function 'biological control', does not consider human inputs such as labour or pesticide use. Information on ecosystem condition and human inputs and interactions with the system should be taken into account by the User of the Framework according to the particular planning or management context within which the Framework is being applied. For example, an ecosystem that is in poor condition will be limited in its ability to perform certain functions, as will ecosystems that rely heavily on human inputs to maintain their functioning, such as cultivated crops and ecosystems in urban environments. More information on human inputs can be found in Framework Boundaries.

 

        3.     A Series of Maps

Providing spatial information on where ecosystem services are being derived from in SEQ is important to understanding the biophysical parameters from which to design plans and management strategies to protect, restore and/or enhance ecosystem service provision. To date, 2 series of maps have been developed to support the Framework; Ecosystem Reporting Category and Ecosystem Function maps.

Thirty two (32) Ecosystem Reporting Category maps have been developed, 1 map for each Ecosystem Reporting Category. The Ecosystem Reporting Category introduction page provides a map overlaying all 32 maps and therefore shows were all the Ecosystem Reporting Categories are located in SEQ. Individual maps for each Ecosystem Reporting Category are located in the webpage providing information on that particular Category. A list of data sets applied to develop the Ecosystem Reporting Category maps is located in the Quick Index, or click here.

Nineteen (19) Ecosystem Function maps have been developed also, 1 map for each ecosystem function. The ecosystem function introduction page provides a map overlaying all 19 functions and therefore shows areas were there is low and high ecosystem function being performed in SEQ. The map to the right shows areas of 'high' ecosystem function, therefore these areas have the potential to contribute highly to ecosystem service provision. Individual maps for each ecosystem function are located in the webpage providing information on that particular function. A list of data sets applied to develop the Ecosystem Function maps is located in the Quick Index, or click here. The Quick Index also contains a published journal article on the ecosystem function mapping process.

The information in these maps should be considered indicative only. For more detailed information these maps should be viewed in ARC GIS format. More information on these maps is provided under the Ecosystem Reporting Category and Ecosystem Function sections of this website. Future developments in mapping to support the Framework include Ecosystem Service maps.