Nature can provide a multitude of hidden benefits to humans such as control of crop pests by their natural enemies, crop pollination and prevention of soil erosion that keeps rivers clean. These are known as ecosystem services and are worth billions of euros every year in each European country.
The QuESSA (Quantification of Ecological Services for Sustainable Agriculture) project aims to quantify the key semi-natural habitats (SNH) providing these essential ecosystem services (ES) across economically important cropping systems, farming intensities and four European agro-climatic zones.
This will be achieved by first identifying and linking the vegetation traits that support potential ES for the main SNH found on farmed land. Actual ES provision will then be measured in 16 case studies in 8 countries. The ES investigated will include control of crop pests by natural enemies, crop pollination, soil erosion, soil fertility and weed control. The relative socio-economic importance of the selected ecosystem services will also be determined. Data will be used to develop mathematical models that be used to explore how the amounts, type and location of SNH influence ES from farm to landscape level. Models will also be used to explore synergies and trade-offs among ES by SNH from habitat to landscape scale and identify unused opportunities to better exploit ES. Investigations of private and public economic benefits, and non-monetary value of selected ES will be conducted. The research will aim to match the requirements of local and national stakeholders and provide valuable outputs that they can use to improve ES provision from SNH; these will include a novel web-based tool, practical guidelines and policy documents.
The QuESSA project is funded by the European Commission through the Seventh Framework Programme. Contract Number 311879.