The ecosystem services are all the benefits that nature provides to humans. If we are able to measure them, we will be able to put in value all that the environment does for us.
The concept of ecosystem service thus underlines our dependence on nature. It is conceived as a new way of facing the relations between humans and nature and focus on increasing our awareness to protect the environment.
The concept has gained great relevance at the scientific level. Thus, the main platform of the UN for the protection of nature is the "Intergovernmental Science‐Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services". In addition, the EU has introduced criteria based on ecosystem services in its environmental and land management policies (e.g., green infrastructure strategy, forestry strategy, biodiversity conservation, etc.).
However, ecosystem services remain largely unknown to the general public and have hardly reached European secondary school classes and universities.
The project attempts to address this shortcoming by the creation of a multi‐stakeholder partnership with universities and high‐schools from the different biogeographical areas of Europe (Atlantic, Mediterranean, Alpine, Continental, Boreal, Arctic) aimed at generating high‐quality intellectual outputs to provide the European students with new skills and competences about ecosystem services and all the benefits that humans obtain from nature in a context of climate change and under a cross‐cultural and diachronic approach.
Although all outputs can be certainly universally used, the project targets teachers and students in rural areas.
It is in these areas, many of which are peripheral, ageing, and depopulated, where links with nature are most palpable and where ecosystem services are the main force for development and a good basis for entrepreneurship and job creation.
Furthermore, it is these same ecosystem services that provide human groups with a cultural identity through the ecological heritage received from their ancestors, a heritage that is being lost but which is also their best tool for tackling climate change.
The project offers solutions for teachers to include the ecosystem services framework in the classroom:
- MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) specifically designed for teacher training.
- Web platform with content and activities already successfully tested with students. It includes up to 24 activities, previously validated, explained in detail and with everything necessary for their implementation in the classroom. Each activity is accompanied by practical examples from the 7 main biogeographical areas of Europe (168 examples).
- APP (for smart phones) for economic valuation of ecosystem services also developed in this project.
- An E-Book with a cross cultural comparison of intergenerational dialogues on ecosystem services carried out by all partners.
Students who incorporate a vision of human‐nature relations based on the ecosystem services framework will tend to be more aware of environmental protection, more appreciative of the ecological heritage received by their ancestors, and more determined to meet the challenge of adapting to climate change.
But unlike previous environmental proposals, ecosystem service valuation, while raising awareness, also gives them tools to seek novel solutions.
Participating countries in the project: