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Adoption of the ecosystem services concept in EU policies ( open access)


  • Twelve EU policies were reviewed to assess the incorporation of the Ecosystem Services (ES) concept.
  • Incorporation of the ES concept in the reviewed policies is moderate, but the concept is gradually gaining a presence.
  • Coherence with the ES concept depends on the type of policy document, periodicity, and acceptance of actors.
  • Further adoption results mainly through the implementation process of existing policies.

The concept of ecosystem services has gained a strong political profile during the last 15 years. However, there is no specific EU policy devoted to governing ecosystem services. This article shows that the ecosystem services concept is already embedded in recent EU (environmentally-related) policies, such as the Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and the Invasive Alien Species Regulation.

Our review of 12 policies shows that, overall, the coherence between existing policies and the ecosystem services concept is moderate. Policies showing very high coherence are confined to the policy arenas that address natural ecosystems, forestry, or agriculture. Given the sectoral nature of most EU policies and the limited options for revision in the near future, opportunities for improving coherence are most apparent in furthering the integration of the ecosystem services concept in the implementation of existing EU policies at national and regional levels.