Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits that societies obtain from nature. These include the direct provision of material goods, such as food, fuel and fiber; the regulation of undesired events, such as climate change and flooding; and many non-material benefits, such as sense of identity or aesthetic enjoyment. Mastering the discourse of ES is crucial to meeting the challenges of sustainability in the 21st century. Yet, due to the complexity of understanding and modeling ES provision, use and flow, operational ES-driven management remains a challenge.
The International Spring University on Ecosystem Services modeling (ISU-ES) 2013 is the first edition of an annual 2-week intensive course that aims to build a new generation of actors ,in research, policy and management, who can profitably use ecosystem services models to address and solve sustainability problems. The course will follow a problem-based paradigm, learning the most advanced ES modeling techniques from theory and practice using case studies defined by the participants. It is organized by BC3 , The UNESCO Chair on “Sustainable Development and Environmental Education” of the University of the Basque Country and the City Hall of Bilbao, with the collaboration of other international academic and non-profit organizations.
BC3, Basque Centre for Climate Change is leading the development of some of the most advanced methodologies to quantify and value the flows of beneficial services that natural ecosystems provide to societies. While the methods developed are reaching high degrees of sophistication, the skills required to perform an assessment remain in the hands of only few people. In two weeks of intensive instructions, participants will master the modeling language that runs the ARIES modeling platform (http://www.ariesonline.org) and learn how to effectively model ES problems of different scope and scale. At their discretion, the participants will have the option of continuing interaction with the ARIES consortium to contribute to the largest worldwide public repository of models and data on ecosystem services.
The Spring University will adopt a Problem-based course paradigm: most participants will bring a problem statement and some data to describe it, and will leave with a solution ready for application. According to applications, the school will be addressing thematic areas (such as urban services, fisheries, etc.) with groups of participants. The results of each thematic area will be collected in a book to be published in early 2014.
Upon acceptance of an applicant, the School’s scientific board will approach each participant and discuss the specific problems they wish to bring to the course and their desired solutions. According to the participants’ lineup, thematic groups may be formed to address specialized problem areas such as (e.g.) urban ecosystem services or food security.