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Emerging ecosystem services governance issues in the Belgium ecosystem services community of practice

Keune, Hans, Dendoncker, Nicolas, Popa, Florin, Sander, Jacobs, Kampelmann, Stephan, Boeraeve, Fanny, DufrĂȘne, Marc, Bauler, Tom, Casaer, Jim, Cerulus, Tanya, De Blust, Geert, Denayer, Bart, Janssens, Lieve, Liekens, Inge, Panis, Jeroen, Scheppers, Thomas, Simoens, Ilse, Staes, Jan, Turkelboom, Francis, Ulenaers, Paula, Van der Biest, Katrien, Verboven, Jan
Ecosystem services 2015 v.16 pp. 212-219
decision making, ecosystem services, governance, hybrids, issues and policy, research projects, stakeholders, Belgium
In this paper we will focus on how governance issues are being dealt with in the BElgium Ecosystem Services (BEES) Community of Practice and on some Belgian Ecosystem Services (ES) research projects aimed at policy or practice support. As ES governance is still mainly an aspect of policy or practice oriented research, we will specifically focus on method and methodological decision making. The system or systems we aim to govern are complex. But also the governance processes are inherently complex. How do we take this complexity into account in decision support? Do we acknowledge complexity in our approach or do we drastically simplify and reduce it to relatively simple proportions? The methodological approach of decision support methods is open for debate as neither crystal clear nor undisputed yardsticks for best practices exist. On an ambition level, BEES members generally seem to prefer transdisciplinary as well as inclusive valuation approaches, though not exclusively in all circumstances. In Belgium research projects, similar to the developments within BEES, from a research practice dominated by scientists, gradually research processes are opening up to transdisciplinary collaboration. Simultaneously these processes gradually shift from mainly top down approaches to bottom up approaches or hybrid combinations of both entry points. A closer and more nuanced view shows that real transdisciplinary collaboration in Belgian ES research still is only at the beginning. Partly this can be explained by the fact that inter- and transdisciplinary approaches are perhaps more realistic, but also have to deal with more social complexity. New balances have to be found between sophistication and pragmatics. Also the role of science can become more ambiguous: the closer to stakeholders, the more an independent role can be questioned. Regarding ES valuation methods, in general a trend towards more inclusive valuation is clearly noticeable in Belgian ES research, inclusive in the sense of a diversity of ES valuation aspects to be taken into account, diverse types of expression of value(s), a combination of quantifiable and qualitative information, and a diversity of valuators by way of more bottom-up approaches. Still, there are quite some differences between projects and challenges for integration.