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Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services in Bulgaria

  • Published on November 11, 2019

Development of methodological framework and system for mapping, assessing and reporting the biophysical and monetary value of ecosystems and their services in the process of elaboration of sectoral policies is an important priority of the resource efficiency policy of Bulgaria. First steps are taken in this relevance. Programme BG 03 "Biodiversity and Ecosystem services" under the Financial Mechanism of European Economic Area 2009-2014 was implemented. Within the project MetEcoSMap, funded by Programme BG 03, has been elaborated. National Methodological Framework for Mapping and Biophysical Assessment of Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services in Bulgaria, consisting of methodologies for mapping nine types of ecosystems and ecosystem services (for agricultural, grass, shrub and eryoid ecosystems, marine ecosystems, areas with no or rare vegetation, rivers and lakes, wetlands, forest and bush ecosystems and urban ecosystems). Guidelines for monitoring the state of ecosystems and for on-site verification have been prepared, as well as a framework document on the link with the economic assessment. By other six projects financed under Programme BG 03 have been mapped the nine ecosystem types identified in Bulgaria, outside Natura 2000. The data and maps on the state of the ecosystems and their services are included in the National Biodiversity Monitoring System and will be the basis for the making of policies for sustainable use of natural resources, in accordance with the fulfillment of Bulgaria's international commitments and requirements of the EU legislation. Operational Programme Environment 2014-2020 will provide funding for support measures for mapping, biophysical assessment and monetary evaluation of ecosystems and ecosystem services, including green infrastructure, the scope of the measures being limited within the Natura 2000 network. Grant procedure to evaluate ecosystems and their services, green infrastructure and assessment of natural capital value is envisaged. Under grant agreement from theEU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme the Project MAIA (Mapping and Assessment for Integrated ecosystem Accounting) is in process of development. The aim is to promote and develop the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) in the country. The SEEA is a multi-purpose system that generates a wide range of statistics, accounts and indicators with a wide variety of potential analytical applications. It is a flexible system that can be adapted to the priorities and needs of country policies, while providing a common framework, concepts, terms and definitions. Forest ecosystem services concept is enshrined in the Forest Act (Chapter 17 - Public Ecosystem Benefits of Forest Areas), where the valuation of the forest ecosystem services is envisaged by introducing a Methodology/Ordinance to Determine Compensation for Public Ecosystem Benefits of Forest Areas.

Ecosystems provide services which are essential to human development and economic activity. Apart from the flow of commodities such as crop, timber, etc., ecosystems provide wide range of less tangible services, such as pollination, erosion protection, waste absorption, carbon sequestration, and even aesthetic, cultural and scientific interactions. These services are not fully included in accounting and statistics, and are often underestimated in the traditional economic activity. This often leads to managerial decisions and social choices that promote unsustainable use of the ecosystems and cause their degradation. Changes in land use, urbanisation, industrialisation, and excessive exploitation of natural resources, population growth and other factors have led to the overuse and depletion of the ecosystems. These trends are being exacerbated by an imprecise definition of ownership rights and a lack of markets for ecosystem services. The assessment of ecosystem services is an innovative way to tackle these problems and complements the current range of instruments used for nature conservation. Therefore, the ecosystems and ecosystem services mapping and valuation is in a position to inform the decision making in a number of related policies, such as water and agricultural instruments, spatial planning, cohesion policy, the planning for development and maintenance of green infrastructure, etc.

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