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ServAlp: Research fields

by Webmaster - 3 May 2016 ( last update : 20 July 2016 )

ServAlp: Dynamics of socio-ecosystems in a changing world

As human impacts on ecosystems increase exponentially and safe boundaries are rapidly exceeded, environmental science increasingly focuses on the coupled dynamics of social and ecological systems. This renewed focus considers not only the internal dynamics of each of the social and ecological subsystems and how they impact each other, but also those specific mechanisms that operate the linkages between the two subsystems. Two interface mechanisms are recognized: decision-making, which determines human intervention on ecosystems, and ecosystem services, which materialize the benefits that humans receive from ecosystems to increase their well-being. Recent nature management and policy development fully embrace this new perspective, with the conservation, management and restoration of ecosystem services becoming explicit targets of biodiversity-related policies (Convention on Biological Diversity 2010, Stratégie Nationale pour la Biodiversité 2011-2020). As a result there is an urgent pressure on fundamental science to deliver the knowledge without which assessments underpinning environmental, agricultural regional planning or development policies run a high risk of compromising biodiversity assets at the expense of short-term returns. In particular, key knowledge is still scarce on: (i) how to best quantify ecosystem service supply by ecosystems depending on their biodiversity and their environmental and land use context; (ii) what are the mechanisms underpinning trade-offs and synergies among multiple ecosystem services; (iii) how such complex interactions are perceived by different social groups, and as a result how they can be taken into account for a novel inter-sectoral governance.

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Map of packages of ecosystem services in the French Alps, win a zoom on the Grenoble metropolis area. Pictures illustrate typical landscape for each pattern. © Emilie Croat.

Our three main objectives and associated methods are to:
1. Improve the quantification of ecosystem service supply by incorporating state-of-the-art understanding and models on the drivers of biodiversity across trophic levels, and on biodiversity effects on biogeochemistry and other ecosystem functions such as soil stability.
Methods: new biodiversity models from Themes MacroEco and InterSpe, biogeochemical models (Theme BioGeoChem), landscape ecology, remote sensing.
Keywords: ecosystem service providers, biodiversity-ecosystem functioning, functional biogeography.
2. Produce new, robust knowledge on the mechanisms determining trade-offs and synergies among multiple ecosystem services. We will consider both direct interactions resulting from functional mechanisms such as shared traits or ecological process chains in biogeochemical cycles, and concurrent or cascading effects of climate, land use and social drivers.
Methods: ecological network analysis, path analysis, geostatistics, social valuation.
Keywords: ecosystem service bundle, functional trade-off, causal chains, multifunctionality.
3. Develop integrated scenarios of land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services combining participative scenario building and assessment, with state-of-the-art land-use modelling and ecosystem service models from objective 1. The ambition is for these scenarios to inform policy development and land management planning.
Methods: scenario building, land-use models, agent-based modelling, multi-criteria decision analysis, backcasting, participative research.
Keywords: futures studies, scenarios, conservation, land planning, governance, transdisciplinarity.
Scale: Landscape to continental.
Study sites: Lautaret, French Alps (CIPRA perimeter), Grenoble urban region.

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Figure: Network of Ecosystem Services (SE) in the Grenoble mountain area. © Sandra Lavorel

contact: Sandra Lavorel — sandra.lavorel[at]

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