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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling

Mind the gap: Bridging knowledge and decision-making across sectoral silos and levels of governance in ecosystem based management

Alternative title: Mind the gap: Integrering av naturkunnskap i beslutningsprosesser på tvers av styringsnivå og sektorer i økosystembasert forvaltning

Awarded: NOK 11.5 mill.

EcoGaps addresses apparent gaps between available ecosystem science knowledge and its use in political-administrative decision-making processes. Ecosystems are increasingly threatened by land-use, biodiversity losses and climate change, while the management remains divided among multiple actors, sectoral silo-organization and demarcated decision-making processes. EcoGaps studies how ecosystem knowledge uptake can be strengthened in fragmented political-administrative systems, by focusing on the governance enhancing mechanisms of Ecosystem Accounting (EA) and Impact Assessments (IA). We examine to what extent, how and under what circumstances EAs and IAs work as procedural integration mechanisms, capable of overcoming fragmented decision- and policymaking, contributing to more sustainable governance of ecosystems. EcoGaps is based on two main goals: Firstly, we seek to test and assess innovative solutions in ecosystem accounting at local and regional levels in the county of Viken, based on the UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounts ? Ecosystem Accounts (SEEA EA). We will explore new digital tools such as 'Naturkampen'. Secondly, EcoGaps aims at building systematic research regarding the role of IAs and EAs in the existing political-administrative system. Based on surveys and case studies, we will gather data on how EAs and IAs are applied, and which drivers and obstacles that affect their application within differing institutional contexts. We will map how incentives and provisions from the EU are interpreted and practiced in domestic administration, how IAs and EAs may foster coordination according to the Norwegian planning and building act, and how local and regional interaction can be enhanced. In this way, EcoGaps will identify best practices and institutional variables of relevance for the application of ecosystem knowledge and digital tools, for multilevel governance and coordination across institutional and sectoral divides. The main focus in 2021 has been preparing for scientific data gathering in 2022, and starting up work packages 4 and 5, including the pilot in Nordre Follo municipality. Here, EcoGaps has started developing ecosystem extent accounts, ecosystem condition accounts and ecosystem services based on the SEEA EA framework. In work package 5 we have carried out a webinar and a workshop on ecosystem extent accounting for the municipalities in Viken County. The workshop on September 22. was recorded and is available on Viken County?s internet page. Through these activities, it has been revealed a significant need for a better integrated knowledge base, which exists in a fragmented manner. National actors such as the Norwegian Environment Agency, SSB and NIBO dispose of updated and relevant data bases, maps and statistics regarding our ecosystems, but the data is not inter-operable and cannot be applied in an integrated manner. From a municipal planning perspectives, these are barriers against efficient and user friendly application. There is need for digital systems, maps and databases that can easily be coordinated and integrated. The municipalities also request a better coordinated national level in defining the content and framework for municipal ecosystem accounting. In 2021, EcoGaps also carried out work that expanded Sabima?s internet page ?Naturkampen? with three new indicators.

Ecogaps departs from apparent research gaps in existing scholarship related to the usability of ecosystem knowledge and the role of fragmented political-administrative systems, and studies how these structural challenges can be overcome by means of impact assessments (IAs) and ecosystem accounts (EAs). IAs and EAs serve as integration mechanisms feeding ecosystem knowledge into planning and decision-making processes by measuring outcomes of proposed activities for the environment. They are not entirely new to public administration, but have been potentially strengthened in recent years by the Water framework directive and provisions enshrined in the Norwegian Nature Diversity Act. Yet, IAs are unevenly applied across public administrative jurisdictions in Norway. EAs are new, promising integration mechanisms, making changes in ecosystem status ‘visible’ to planners and policy-makers by integrating several strands of knowledge into a coherent system. Without integrated ecosystem accounting, consequences of bio diversity loss are more easily ignored in spatial planning processes and decision-making. Combining experiences from an innovation pilot in Viken with time-series survey data never utilized before and in-depth interview data, EcoGaps will systematically map and study how IAs and EAs are applied in water managment and land-use planning in Norway, and how such practices can promote more coherent policy- and decison-making prioritizing biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The superior research question is: To what extent, how and under what circumstances do EAs and IAs work as procedural integration mechanisms, able to overcome fragmented, decision- and policymaking and contribute to more sustainable governance of ecosystems? EcoGaps will also develop, test and disseminate new ecosystem accounting practices at local and regional levels in the County of Viken, through a researcher - practitioner collaboration which will make rapid implementation likely.

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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling