Project Summary

Figure 1. Portugal (mainland and islands) and the case studies regions of the Portuguese sub-global assessment.

Portugal covers an area of c. 92 000 km2 and has an oceanic exclusive economic zone of c. 1 700 000 km2. The country experiences high climatic variation and has high diversity of ecosystems, many of which are confined to small spaces and result in ecotones associated with high biodiversity. Soil degradation as a result of water erosion presents a high risk of desertification in Portugal, and Portuguese ecosystems and agriculture are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of fire risk, water scarcity and the number of species and habitats already threatened.

The Portugal Assessment (ptMA) was conducted as a country-wide assessment focused on specific pilot projects at multiple spatial scales. The case studies were not fully representative of the country, but were designed to provide particular insight into ecosystem changes at each scale. Spatial scales at which assessments were undertaken include: national, basin and local. At the national scale, the assessment was organized according to ecosystem (marine, coastal, inland water, Montado, forest, island and urban). The pristine Mira basin estuary, in Alentejo and the intensively studied Mondego estuary in Beira Litoraland were assessed for the basin scale. The Mondego differs significantly from the Mira, in that it is under heavy human influence. Assessments were also carried out at the local level in highly variable regions throughout Portugal. These sites were chosen on the basis of user needs, the existence of projects or research, and to cover multiple regions.

Ecosystems services users were engaged in multiple aspects of the assessment and had a primary role in choosing scales and case studies for assessment. In order to maintain a close working relationship, users participated in research meetings at all levels of the assessment. Users were active in scenario- building and in the qualitative assessment of conditions and trends of ecosystem services.

Users identified several areas of interest for assessment. Almost all users were interested in the economic valuation of ecosystem services and assessing the condition of these services. Equity of environmental benefits and the history of land use were important areas of assessment for some users, while others were especially interested in the effects of legislation. In particular, users identified the impacts of CAP, NATURA 2000 and the Nitrate Directive as legislation they would like to see assessed. Driving forces of change (including climate change, consumer behaviour, species introduction, fragmentation of habitats and urbanization) in the ability of ecosystems to provide essential services were also of concern to users. Forest and agricultural lands were listed by most users as priorities for assessment.

Assessment Approach

The assessment was divided into multiple phases. Firstly, user needs and response options were assessed. Next, scenario development and expert-based assessment of conditions and trends were carried out. Finally, a stakeholder (scientists, users, etc) reviewed publication process of the assessment results produced three documents: State of the Assessment Report, Report on User Needs and Response Options, and Portugal Assessment Book.

Human well-being was assessed at the local and national levels using economic, social, and environmental indicators. Issues of equity were addressed using income poverty indicators and disaggregating some indicators by location and gender. In Sistelo, a participatory approach was used to determine well-being at the local level.

Drivers of change in ecosystem services were assessed through workshops with the research team and the users and through a literature review by the scientific team.

Lead Institutions

The Center for Environmental Biology (CBA) of the Faculty of Sciences of the University

of Lisbon was the coordinating institution for the ptMA the scientific team was consisted of 40 scientists from over 10 universities, research institutions and government agencies. The steering committee for the assessment was composed of: Henrique M. Pereira, Tiago Domingos, and Luis Vicente.

The intended audience for the assessment is national and local decision-makers. The board of users included ten members representing government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. The advisory board was composed of seven members, including scientists and decision-makers and was chaired by Isabel Guerra of the Portuguese Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Housing.

Contact information

Primary funding for the ptMA was provided by the MA, Xaiza Geral de Depósitos, and the University of Coimbra. In-kind contributions were also provided by the home institutions of the researchers. Further financial and in-kind support were received from: Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Universidade Técnica de Lisboa and Caminhos e Ferro, E.P..

Ecosystems Services Assessed

Provisioning services: water, food and fiber; regulating services: climate regulation, soil protection and runoff regulation; cultural services: recreation, education, ultural heritage and aesthetic value. Additionally, biodiversity was assessed.

Project Outputs and Results

Users and the research team identified the following as the primary drivers of change in ecosystem services in Portugal: fire regime, land tenure and farm structure, economic growth, land used changes related to multiple factors, tourism, introduction of exotic species, population distribution and migration, environmental legislation and attitudes towards this legislation, CAP, and international trade agreements.




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