Björn Schulte-Herbrüggen attended the European Ecosystem Services Conference held in Antwerp, Belgium 19-23 September 2016 (http://www.esconference2016.eu). The conference was organised by the Ecosystem Services Partnership (http://es-partnership.org), a worldwide network to enhance the science and practical application of ecosystem services.

Björn gave a presentation entitled “The choice of poverty framework matters when assessing the contribution of ecosystem services to poverty alleviation” summarising recent SPACES findings on linkages between ecosystem services (ES) and multidimensional wellbeing in rural Kenya. In a nutshell, the study showed that depending on how poverty is defined, eg subjective wellbeing or income poverty, the number of people classed as poor varied strongly, as did the characteristics of poor people, ie there was little overlap between poverty frameworks. Further, ES and different poverty dimensions interacted in complex ways, whereby ES acted as a coping mechanism for asset poor households, while they appeared to be a strategy to lift people out of income poverty, and did not have any statistical link with peoples’ satisfaction.

These diverse linkages challenge our understanding of how ES can contribute to poverty alleviation and suggest that well intended interventions can have negative side effects for some people and some poverty dimensions. From this follows the need for a more nuanced and multidimensional understanding through integrative studies with an explicit focus on untangling multiple poverty dimensions and trade-offs between them. This is particularly important when aiming to manage ES for poverty alleviation.

A surprising observation during the conference was the geographical disjunct of studies. Presentation in the “ecosystem services for poverty alleviation” session generally focused on developing countries while other sessions focused on studies conducted in Europe. Now, it could be said that this was a European conference attended mostly by Europeans but given the dire economic situation in many southern European countries and especially rural areas, one wonders why the ecosystem services for poverty alleviation agenda has such a strong focus on developing countries!?

Finally, the conference saw the launch of ‘Oppla’ (http://oppla.eu); a new knowledge marketplace where the latest thinking on ecosystem services, natural capital and nature-based solutions is brought together. Oppla is still in beta version but aims to become a one-stop address for ecosystem services tools.

The presentation can be found here.