Main funding organisation
January 2012 – December 2017
Contact at LUCSUS
Kimberly Nicholas, Assistant Professor
Ecosystems provide humankind with a range of beneficial resources, goods and services. Yet human use and exploitation of the biosphere is increasing at such a pace and scale that many of the major ecosystems are threatened, and may not be able to continue to function in ways that are vital to support the existence of humanity.
The European ecosystem services project OPERAs (Operational Potential of Ecosystems Research Applications) explores how to apply the ecosystem services and natural capital concepts in support of sustainable ecosystem management.
In simple terms, ecosystem services are the benefits people get from nature. They include provisioning services, such as crops for food and fiber; regulating and maintenance services, such as water filtration, pollination, and carbon sequestration; and cultural services, such as recreation and education. Natural capital refers to the stocks of natural resources that provide these services.
The ecosystem services and natural capital concepts have been adopted in high-level policy frameworks, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the EU biodiversity strategy. However, a mismatch still exists between scientific understanding and the practical application of this knowledge in policy and decision-making practice.
OPERAs is consortium of academic, civil society and private partners working together with business, policy and non-profit partners to help bring ecosystem services and natural capital tools and approaches into decision-making processes. Its goal is to explore whether, how and under what conditions these concepts can move beyond the academic domain and towards practical implementation.
At the heart of OPERAs are twelve case studies (“exemplars”) that span a range of geographies, ecosystems, scales, and sectors. All share the common goal of working with stakeholders to bring ecosystem services and natural capital into policy and practice. LUCSUS members Kimberly Nicholas and Heather Schoonover coordinate across these exemplars, ensuring the exemplar members have opportunities to interact with each other and helping to synthesize their experiences, outputs, and lessons learned.
Kim and Heather also lead the wine exemplar, which seeks to understand how different actors in the wine value chain (producers, retailers, consumers) influence wine production and thus the ecosystem services provided by vineyard ecosystems. Our approach is unique because most scientific work on ecosystem services focuses only on the production end of the value chain. In addition to working with growers to understand their motivations and barriers to shift to more sustainable practices, we are also working with retailers and distributors to understand how they can and do influence wine production and hence the provision of ecosystem services.
LUCSUS members Lennart Olsson and Torsten Krause lead OPERAs research on governance and institutional aspects of operationalizing the ecosystem services and natural capital concepts.
Seven masters students have also written their masters theses within the OPERAs project, on topics ranging from tourist support for seagrass conservation in Mallorca to the cultural ecosystem services of vineyard landscapes. Many of these are also presented in popular science summaries on the OPERAs blog.
Hermelingmeier, V. and Nicholas, K.A. Identifying five different perspectives on the ecosystem services concept using Q-methodology. Ecological Economics, 136: 255-265.
Winkler, K.J. and Nicholas, K.A. (2016). More than wine: Cultural ecosystem services in vineyard landscapes in England and California. Ecological Economics, 124: 86-98.
Nicholas, K.A. (2015). Will We Still Enjoy Pinot Noir? Scientific American, 312(1): 60-67.
Viers, J.H., Williams, J.N., Nicholas, K.A., Barbosa, O., Kotzé, I., Spence, L., Webb, L.B., Merenlends, A., Reynolds, M. (2013). Vinecology: pairing wine with nature. Conservation Letters 6(5): p.287-299
Nicholas, K.A. (2014). Illustrating human-nature interactions in ecosystem services: the case of terroir in wine. Poster presentation at American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Redford, E. The Sussex wine industry’s opportunity to become UK climate change pioneers. OPERAs blog post, 7 February 2017.
Ambros, P. Finding a common ground: Using ecosystem services to deal with conflicting interests. OPERAs blog post, 1 December 2016.
Siepmann, L. Organic farming through winegrowers' eyes. OPERAs blog post, 8 June 2016.
Winkler, K.J. and Nicholas, K.A. More than wine: Perspectives on local values and vineyard landscapes. OPERAs blog post, 15 March 2016.
Kurani, S. Seagrass in the Mediteranean. OPERAs blog post, 22 September 2015.
von Essen, M. Part II – Should we base investments on InVEST? OPERAs blog post, 3 August 2015.
von Essen, M. The Portuguese Montados: Cork Before Cattle. OPERAs blog post, 23 July 2015.
Hermelingmeier, V. The Ecosystem Services Discourse. OPERAs blog post, 27 February 2014.
Ambros, Pontus. (2016). Bridging to the common ground, adapting to climate change through sustainable estuarine land use: a study of the Inner Forth, Scotland. Lund University International Masters' Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science (LUMES) masters thesis.
Redford, Ellen. (2016). Rosé tinted glasses?: how a new wine region can adopt existing low carbon practices. Lund University International Masters' Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science (LUMES) masters thesis.
Siepmann, Laura. (2016). Winegrowers’ motives and barriers to convert to organic farming in Pfalz and Rheinhessen, Germany. Uppsala University masters thesis (supervised by Kimberly Nicholas).
Kurani, Shrina. (2015). Forget about carbon - let's go on holiday! : using tourist values to conserve seagrass meadows. Lund University International Masters' Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science (LUMES) masters thesis.
von Essen, Marius. (2015). Cork before cattle: quantifying ecosystem services in the Portuguese Montado and questioning ecosystem service mapping. Lund University International Masters' Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science (LUMES) masters thesis.
Hermelingmeier, Verena. (2014). Harmonizing OPERAs voices: an investigation of different perspectives on the ecosystem services concept and their implications for research and practice. Lund University International Masters' Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science (LUMES) masters thesis.
Winkler, Klara. (2014). More than wine: cultural ecosystem services in vineyard landscapes. Lund University International Masters' Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science (LUMES) masters thesis.