Ecosystem services

published in: 2020 - 2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016


Land use change models refine biodiversity scenarios

Marshall L, Beckers V, Vray S, Rasmont P, Vereecken NJ, Dendoncker N. 2020. High thematic resolution land use change models refine biodiversity scenarios: A case study with Belgian bumblebees. Journal of Biogeography . DOI:

Projections of biodiversity scenarios often rely solely on climate change to inform species distribution shifts in the future. Land use projections are rarely used due to their unavailability and, when available, are often at coarse spatial and thematic resolutions, making them unsuitable to capture fine scale habitat suitability. This study aims at (a) showing how coupled land use change (LUC) models of high thematic resolution (HTR) can be used in species distribution models (SDM), (b) comparing the impacts of HTR and low thematic resolution (LTR) explanatory predictors on biodiversity scenarios and (c) assessing the impact of species' present area of occupancy on the effect of thematic resolution in SDMs. Belgian bumblebees were used as case study. The results illustrate the importance of using ecologically relevant explanatory variables in SDMs, particularly for rare and localized species with specific habitat requirements. The results also indicate the need for large‐scale LUC projections to improve future biodiversity scenarios under climate change and to improve the ability of conservationists and policymakers to use SDM projections.

Bumblebees moving up

Marshall L, Perdijk F, Dendoncker N, Kunin W, Roberts S, Biesmeijer JC. 2020. Bumblebees moving up: shifts in elevation ranges in the Pyrenees over 115 years. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 287:20202201. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.2201.

In a warming climate, species are expected to shift their geographical ranges to higher elevations and latitudes, and if interacting species shift at different rates, networks may be disrupted. To quantify the effects of ongoing climate change, repeating historical biodiversity surveys are necessary. This study compares the distribution of a plant–pollinator community with 115 years between the surveys in the Pyrenees (France). The composition of the bumblebee community remained quite stable, but clear shifts to higher elevations for bumblebees (averaging 129 m) and plants (229 m) can be observed. These provide preliminary evidence that some bumblebee species shift with the plants they visit. Some species were able to occupy the same climate range in both periods by shifting elevation range. The results suggest the need for long-term monitoring to determine the role and impact of the different drivers of global change, especially in montane habitats where the impacts of climate changes are anticipated to be more extreme.

Science-policy interface on ecosystems and people

Balvanera P, Jacobs S, Nagendra H, O’Farrell P, Bridgewater P, Crouzat E, Dendoncker N, Goodwin S, Gustafsson KM, Kadykalo AN, Krug CB, Matuk FA, Pandit R, Sala JE, Schröter M, Washbourne C-L. 2020. The science-policy interface on ecosystems and people: challenges and opportunities. Ecosystems and People 16:345–353. DOI: 10.1080/26395916.2020.1819426.

Relations between ecosystems and people, the social and ecological drivers of changes in nature, and the different dimensions of a good quality of life, from local to global scales, are very complex. Recent studies have revealed how dramatically unsustainable and inequitable the interactions between ecosystems and people are, as a result of  a long legacy of consumerism and utilitarianism, patriarchy and colonialism, and the global expansion of production-oriented relationships with nature. This article is an editorial to a special  issue of the Journal Ecosystems and People where four key challenges to advance the contributions of science-policy interfaces are identified, as well as opportunities and strategies to overcome them.

Urbanization and agricultural dynamics in Belgium

Beckers V, Poelmans L, Rompaey AV, Dendoncker N. 2020. The impact of urbanization on agricultural dynamics: a case study in Belgium. Journal of Land Use Science 0:1–18. DOI: 10.1080/1747423X.2020.1769211.

Urbanization leads to a continuous loss of agricultural land through direct land take, but also indirectly through the use of agricultural land for non-productive rural activities (recreation, horse keeping, hobby farming). This makes farming activities harder through reduced agricultural land, negative externalities and the competition for land. The aim of this paper was to present a modelling approach that combines the different fields of agricultural and urban modelling to analyse the impact of direct and indirect urbanization on farming in the urban fringe under different scenarios. An agricultural agent-based model was combined with spatially explicit urbanization scenarios and with different agricultural subsidizing policies for the case study of Belgium. Due to an aging farming population and low succession rates, simulations until 2035 showed a continuous decline of farmers in all scenarios; a trend that will continue for as long as not every farmer that quits his activities is replaced. Even the most farmer-friendly scenario is expected to result in a further loss of farmland and farms. The continued strong decrease in the number of farmers also leads, in spite of the decrease in farmland area, to a continued increasing average farm size. These declines are expected to be higher in the rural-urban fringe.

Collaboration between ecosystem service communities and the IPBES

Washbourne C-L, Dendoncker N, Jacobs S, Mascarenhas A, De Longueville F, Oudenhoven APE van, Schröter M, Willemen L, Campagne S, Jones SK, Garcia-Llorente M, Iniesta-Arandia I, Baró F, Fisher J, Förster J, Jericó-Daminelo C, Lecina-Diaz J, Lavorel S, Lliso B, Talero CM, Morán-Ordóñez A, Roces-Díaz JV, Schlaepfer MA, Dijk JV. 2020. Improving collaboration between ecosystem service communities and the IPBES science-policy platform. Ecosystems and People 16:165–174. DOI: 10.1080/26395916.2020.1766573.

The creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2012 constitutes a milestone towards multi- and transdisciplinarity and multiculturality in nature-society research and practice. Lessons to be learned from the experiences with the first work program are to close persisting regional and expertise gaps, increase transparency and encourage collaboration. This perspective paper summarises reflections from a workshop and emerging discussions from a range of ecosystem services (ES) researchers and practitioners. Recommendations to IPBES include increasing supportive conditions (e.g. funding), engaging in ES research spaces such as conferences, increasing transparency on contribution and selection processes, and improving communication. Recommendations to the ES community include working towards being more collaborative and policy-relevant by integrating more social scientists, researchers from developing countries, ECRs and policy-makers to increase policy and societal relevance.

Drastic shifts in Belgian bumble bees

Rollin O, Vray S, Dendoncker N, Michez D, Dufrêne M, Rasmont P. 2020. Drastic shifts in the Belgian bumblebee community over the last century. Biodiversity and Conservation. DOI: 10.1007/s10531-020-01988-6.

Bumblebees, important pollinators of crops and wild flowers, are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, agricultural intensification, and climate change. Long-term records are necessary to estimate population trends precisely and to propose appropriate mitigation strategies. This study compares records (museum collections, scientific monitoring, and opportunistic citizen data) of Belgian bumble bee populations through three time-periods covering the past 100 years. Overall, species richness decreased, but some regions retained relatively species-rich communities. A strong shift in community composition occurred. Several species that were once widespread declined drastically, especially those preferring open habitats. Only a few species, preferring wooded habitats, increased in distribution. This study also demonstrates that historical data from various sampling protocols can be combined to study long-term community patterns, when appropriate statistical methods are applied.

Perception of Agroecology

Boeraeve F, Dufrêne M, Dendoncker N, Dupire A, Mahy G. 2020. How Are Landscapes under Agroecological Transition Perceived and Appreciated? A Belgian Case Study. Sustainability 12:2480. DOI: 10.3390/su12062480.

Transition initiatives in agricultural systems are increasing, definitely adding value to Ecosystem Services (ES) as proven by many studies. This also reshapes the landscape. This study assesses the extent to which locals (local inhabitants and farmers) appreciate and view landscapes undergoing agricultural transitions and compared it to the opinion of ‘ES experts’.  The agroecological scenario was the most appreciated, while the conventional one was the least appreciated by both groups and seen as the one delivering the least ES. The authors discuss how these results call for the assessment of the multi-performance of agricultural systems in terms of ES rather than focusing on yield only, andhow future research addressing agroecological transition should rely on integrated valuations and mixed methods to better embrace the complexity of such transitioning systems.

Models to estimate tree diversity

Stas M, Aerts R, Hendrickx M, Dendoncker N, Dujardin S, Linard C, Nawrot T, Van Nieuwenhuyse A, Aerts J-M, Van Orshoven J, Somers B. 2020. An evaluation of species distribution models to estimate tree diversity at genus level in a heterogeneous urban-rural landscape. Landscape and Urban Planning 198:103770. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103770.

Trees in cities provide important ecosystem services that improve the environment and human health (limit urban heat peaks, filter particles, etc.). Such effects may be related to the diversity of trees within green spaces. However, spatial data to evaluate this association is often missing. This study evaluates two methods to model tree diversity at genus level based on environmental covariates and presence point data. The aim is to identify the drivers and suitable methods for urban and rural tree diversity models in the heterogeneous region of Flanders, Belgium. Generic tree diversity estimates were better when presences derived from distribution models were simply added up (binary stacking vs. probability stacking), which thus seems a suitable approach to estimate regional diversity.

Agroecological farming & ecosystem services

Boeraeve F, Dendoncker N, Cornélis J-T, Degrune F, Dufrêne M. 2020. Contribution of agroecological farming systems to the delivery of ecosystem services. Journal of Environmental Management 260:109576. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.109576.

Today's challenge in agriculture is to maintain high productivity while sustaining the environment and its functions. Agroecology seems a promising concept by optimizing ecological processes that deliver ecosystem services (ES) to replace external inputs. This study provides the novelty of assessing simultaneously multiple stakeholder-relevant ES and their interactions in real-life AFS. The findings suggest that the studied agroecological farming systems (AFS) succeed in providing a wider array of regulating services than their neighbouring conventional farming systems (CFS). However, CFS achieve a higher grain production and a better performance in some aspects of fodder quality. While this ‘productivity gap’ may be due to the still-evolving state of the studied AFS, the need is arising to shift from a volume-focused production system to a system that also values the ecological processes underpinning crop production and other benefits to society.


Land use interacts with climate change

Berckmans J, Hamdi R, Dendoncker N. 2019. Bridging the gap between policy-driven land use changes and regional climate projections. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 0. DOI: 10.1029/2018JD029207.

The impact of land surface changes on the local and regional climate can be as large as the impact of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This study models the near future climate state for Western Europe, based on a policy-driven land use change scenario at high resolution. Relatively uniform temperature increases (0.3-0.6°C) contrast with highly heterogeneous changes of land surface. Deforestation and conversion to arable land can diminish climate change effects, while urbanisation enhances the effect of climate change, especially temperature increase.

Power, equity & ecosystem services

Vallet A, Locatelli B, Levrel H, Dendoncker N, Barnaud C, Quispe Conde Y. 2019. Linking equity, power, and stakeholders’ roles in relation to ecosystem services. Ecology and Society 24. DOI: 10.5751/ES-10904-240214.

Stakeholders who benefit from ESs are not necessarily able or authorized to participate in the management of ESs. Their governance is profoundly linked to issues of power and equity. Using an example from the Mariño watershed, one of the poorest regions in Peru, this article proposes an analytical framework to identify and qualify stakeholders’ roles based on the ES benefits received and their participation in ES management. Clear differences in the identity of stakeholders who managed or benefited from ESs showed up, creating structural interdependencies and power relationships among stakeholders. Participatory management could be a way to empower less influential stakeholders.

Stakeholder's ideas of nature

De Vreese R, Van Herzele A, Dendoncker N, Fontaine CM, Leys M. 2019. Are stakeholders’ social representations of nature and landscape compatible with the ecosystem service concept? Ecosystem Services 37:100911. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2019.100911.

Implementing planning and management processes that are based on ecosystem services (ES) in practice remains limited, as well as mainstreaming the results in decision-making. This may be caused by a limited overlap between the ES concept and stakeholders’ representations of nature. Both have an anthropocentric view in common, but stakeholders also stress the role and responsibility of humans in sustaining ecosystems and regulating nature, which is a relational value. The presented social representations technique provides solutions for more effective ES-based planning and management processes and improved understanding among stakeholders as well as between stakeholders and process managers.

Ecosystem disservices matter

Blanco J, Dendoncker N, Barnaud C, Sirami C. 2019. Ecosystem disservices matter: Towards their systematic integration within ecosystem service research and policy. Ecosystem Services 36:100913. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2019.100913.

Ecosystem disservices (EDS) are defined as “the ecosystem generated functions, processes and attributes that result in negative impacts on human wellbeing”. While the ES (Ecosystem services) concept is frequently applied (e.g. analytical research framework, operational tool for decision and policy making), EDS remain poorly investigated. The authors consider them complementary to ES and propose to consider EDS to improve the understanding of people’s views and actions with regard to ecosystems. An integrated ES/EDS framework could provide a more holistic understanding of SES, and contribute to a better integration of the perspectives of different stakeholders and practitioners.

Bumble bees & landscape changes

Vray S, Rollin O, Rasmont P, Dufrêne M, Michez D, Dendoncker N. 2019. A century of local changes in bumblebee communities and landscape composition in Belgium. Journal of Insect Conservation. DOI: 10.1007/s10841-019-00139-9.

Bumblebees are declining in most parts of Western Europe, as often shown, due to agricultural intensification and urbanisation. However, very few studies have explored bumblebee communities prior to the onset of these major land use changes, mostly based on low-resolution spatial data. Here, landscape composition and bumblebee occurrence records between the early twentieth century (1910–1930) and the contemporary period (2013–2015) were compared in four localities representative of Belgium. Bumblebee assemblages changed drastically over this period, and that the decline in richness was strongest in areas with the greatest increase in urbanization and agricultural intensification.


Sow wheat!

Baltazar S, Visser M, Dendoncker N. 2018. Au-delà des idées reçues. L’exemple de Li Mestère, réseau de semences wallon. Études rurales:18–35. DOI: 10.4000/etudesrurales.14553.

Innovation platforms that support interaction among various stakeholders can improve agricultural innovation systems. For example, seed networks such as Li Mestère, that brings together a diverse range of stakeholders to manage the crop diversity of cereals. It facilitates the circulation of seeds, knowledge and know-how that are otherwise inaccessible in the formal seed system. Due to its quick growth, the network struggles with organisational challenges and misrepresentation issues, and finds itself between “idealisation” and “realisation”. By delving beyond preconceived ideas about seed networks, the article highlights these challenges and the efforts to foster an agro-ecological transition.

ADAM - Agricultural Dynamics through Agent-based Modelling

Beckers V, Beckers J, Vanmaercke M, Van Hecke E, Van Rompaey A, Dendoncker N. 2018. Modelling Farm Growth and Its Impact on Agricultural Land Use: A Country Scale Application of an Agent-Based Model. Land 7:109. DOI: 10.3390/land7030109.

Farmers are under ongoing economic pressure today and small, uncompetitive farms have to be given up. The land is then often taken over by neighbouring farmers which leads to a decrease in numbers of farmers but an increase of farm size. Such an agricultural transition has socioeconomic and environmental consequences. An agent-based (autonomous decision-making objects) model is presented to obtain insights in the farmer population and its impact on agricultural land at a national scale level using the example of Belgium.

Participatory identification and selection of ecosystem services

Boeraeve, F, Dufrene, M, De Vreese, R, Jacobs, S, Pipart, N, Turkelboom, F, Verheyden, W, & Dendoncker, N 2018, ‘Participatory identification and selection of ecosystem services: building on field experiences’, Ecology and Society, vol. 23, no. 2, doi: 10.5751/ES-10087-230227

The concept of ecosystem services (ESs) clarifies how ecosystems contribute to human well-being. It is often used to support decision making for sustainable management of natural resources. Valuations should start with a participatory identification of the most relevant ESs to be included. Nevertheless, experiences of researchers with real-life applications are seldom reported. The authors aim at advancing the organization and implementation of participatory ES identification and selection by providing a self-reflective evaluation of experiences and discussion of five case studies.

Reality check of Ecosystem Services valuation

Dendoncker, N, Turkelboom, F, Boeraeve, F, Boerema, A, Broekx, S, Fontaine, C, Demeyer, R, De Vreese, R, Devillet, G, Keune, H, Janssens, L, Liekens, I, Lord-Tarte, E, Popa, F, Simoens, I, Smeets, N, Ulenaers, P, Van Herzele, A, Van Tichelen, K, & Jacobs, S 2018, ‘Integrating Ecosystem Services values for sustainability? Evidence from the Belgium Ecosystem Services community of practice’, Ecosystem Services, vol. 31, pp. 68–76, doi: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.03.006

Communities of Practice (CoP) are effective to stimulate learning and foster innovation among practitioners in various sectors, including ecological restoration. The BElgium Ecosystem Services (BEES) CoP is an open and flexible network that interfaces between different societal actors (e.g., scientists, policy-makers, businesses, NGOs). One of its main aims is to bridge the gap between science and practice and improve the societal relevance of scientific work on ecosystem services. This study evaluates how Ecosystem Services valuation is performed within BEES. Transdisciplinary studies are fostered apprpriately by facilitating the inclusion of a broad range of values and actors. Nevertheless, impacts on decision-making need to be reinforced, real transdisciplinary studies, co-constructed by scientists and stakeholders are yet to be undertaken, and sustainability issues (thresholds & fairness) should be included.

Ecosystem services, social interdependencies, and collective action

Barnaud, C, Corbera, E, Muradian, R, Salliou, N, Sirami, C, Vialatte, A, Choisis, J-P, Dendoncker, N, Mathevet, R, Moreau, C, Reyes-García, V, Boada, M, Deconchat, M, Cibien, C, Garnier, S, Maneja, R, & Antona, M 2018, ‘Ecosystem services, social interdependencies, and collective action: a conceptual framework’, Ecology and Society, vol. 23, no.1, DOI: 10.5751/ES-09848-230115

Collective action mechanisms are rarely considered to manage ecosystem services (ES). To illustrate existing or potential collective actions, a conceptual framework is recommended that highlights social interdependencies among people. This framework can contribute in  particular to agroecological transitions that require innovations at a landscape level and mechanisms to coordinate land users and manager

Forest cover improves water quality

Brogna, D, Dufrêne, M, Michez, A, Latli, A, Jacobs, S, Vincke, C, & Dendoncker, N 2018, ‘Forest cover correlates with good biological water quality. Insights from a regional study (Wallonia, Belgium)’, Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 211, pp. 9–21, DOI: 0.1016/j.jenvman.2018.01.017

Water quality management policies (e.g. the European Water Framework Directive) are highly important since water and freshwater systems particularly threatened by human activities. This paper quantifies the forest cover effect on biological water quality in Belgium. This was measured using biological indices based on diatoms and macro-invertebrates. The the entire Walloon region and five natural ecoregions were analysed. Forest cover was systematically positively correlated with higher biological water quality. Considered alone, it explained around 30% of the biological water quality at the regional scale and 15 - 70% across ecoregions.

Integrated valuation of ecosystem services supports agroecological transitions

Dendoncker, N, Boeraeve, F, Crouzat, E, Dufrêne, M, König, A, & Barnaud, C 2018, ‘How can integrated valuation of ecosystem services help understanding and steering agroecological transitions?’, Ecology and Society, vol. 23, no.1, DOI: 0.5751/ES-09843-230112

Ecosystem services (ES) are the numerous benefits that humans freely gain from healthy ecosystems. Agroecology has been proposed as a promising concept to optimize ecosystem services. Agroecological transition stands for the transformation of conventional, intensive farm systems to agroecological ones (e.g., diversified cropping systems, mosaic landscapes, low anthropogenic inputs further including the ecological and social environment). This article proposes a four-step integrated ES assessment framework that is specifically targeted at understanding and steering agricultural transitions and that is generic enough to be applied in different contexts.

Baltazar S, Visser M, Dendoncker N. 2018. Au-delà des idées reçues. L’exemple de Li Mestère, réseau de semences wallon. Études rurales:18–35. DOI: 10.4000/etudesrurales.14553.

Marshall, L, Biesmeijer, JC, Rasmont, P, Vereecken, NJ, Dvorak, L, Fitzpatrick, U, Francis, F, Neumayer, J, Ødegaard, F, Paukkunen, JPT, Pawlikowski, T, Reemer, M, Roberts, SPM, Straka, J, Vray, S & Dendoncker, N 2018, 'The interplay of climate and land use change affects the distribution of EU bumblebees' Global Change Biology, vol 24, no. 1, pp. 101-116 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13867


Alexander, P, Prestele, R, Verburg, PH, Arneth, A, Baranzelli, C, Batista e Silva, F, Brown, C, Butler, A, Calvin, K, Dendoncker, N, Doelman, JC, Dunford, R, Engström, K, Eitelberg, D, Fujimori, S, Harrison, PA, Hasegawa, T, Havlik, P, Holzhauer, S, Humpenöder, F, Jacobs-Crisioni, C, Jain, AK, Krisztin, T, Kyle, P, Lavalle, C, Lenton, T, Liu, J, Meiyappan, P, Popp, A, Powell, T, Sands, RD, Schaldach, R, Stehfest, E, Steinbuks, J, Tabeau, A, van Meijl, H, Wise, MA & Rounsevell, MDA 2017, 'Assessing uncertainties in land cover projections' Global Change Biology, vol 23, no. 2, pp. 767-781. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13447

Brogna, D, Michez, A, Jacobs, S, Dufrêne, M, Vincke, C & Dendoncker, N 2017, 'Linking forest cover to water quality: A multivariate analysis of large monitoring datasets' Water, vol 9, no. 3, 176. DOI: 10.3390/w9030176

Brogna, D, Vincke, C, Brostaux, Y, Soyeurt, H, Dufrêne, M & Dendoncker, N 2017, 'How does forest cover impact water flows and ecosystem services? Insights from “real-life” catchments in Wallonia (Belgium)' Ecological Indicators, vol 72, pp. 675-685. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.08.011


De Vreese R, Leys M, Dendoncker N, Van Herzele A, Fontaine CM. 2016. Images of nature as a boundary object in social and integrated ecosystem services assessments. Reflections from a Belgian case study. Ecosystem Services 22:269–279. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2016.06.008.

De Vreese, R, Leys, M, Fontaine, C & Dendoncker, N 2016, 'Social mapping of perceived ecosystem services supply-The role of social landscape metrics and social hotspots for integrated ecosystem services assessment, landscape planning and management' Ecological Indicators, vol 66, pp. 517-533. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.01.048

Iserbyt, S, Vray, S, Dendoncker, N, Viart, S & Rasmont, P 2016, 'High-resolution distribution of bumblebees (Bombus spp.) in a mountain area marked by agricultural decline' Annales de la Societe Entomologique de France, pp. 1-17. DOI: 10.1080/00379271.2016.1141664

Jacobs, S, Dendoncker, N, Martín-López, B, Barton, DN, Gomez-Baggethun, E, Boeraeve, F, McGrath, FL, Vierikko, K, Geneletti, D, Sevecke, KJ, Pipart, N, Primmer, E, Mederly, P, Schmidt, S, Aragão, A, Baral, H, Bark, RH, Briceno, T, Brogna, D, Cabral, P, De Vreese, R, Liquete, C, Mueller, H, Peh, KSH, Phelan, A, Rincón, AR, Rogers, SH, Turkelboom, F, Van Reeth, W, van Zanten, BT, Wam, HK & Washbourn, CL 2016, 'A new valuation school: Integrating diverse values of nature in resource and land use decisions' Ecosystem Services, vol 22, pp. 213-220. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2016.11.007