The concept of ecosystem services (ES) provides a powerful way of examining the interaction between ecosystems and human well-being. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, TEEB and the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have brought the concepts into broader environmental planning and policy arenas.

The ideas are now seen as relevant in European regulatory frameworks and policies for biodiversity, resource efficiency, sustainable land and water use, climate change mitigation, ecosystem restoration and the design of green infrastructure, as well as sustainable economic development. Despite progress in understanding the links between NC and the socio-economic benefits and aspects of human well-being that depend on the flow of ES, research and application are still largely exploratory. Further conceptual and empirical work is needed to translate the concepts into operational frameworks that provide tested, practical and tailored solutions for integrating ES into management and decision-making.

We also need to understand how the concepts can be embedded in existing practice, or used to transform current management and policy approaches. OpenNESS will develop innovative and practical ways of applying the ideas of ecosystem services (ESS) and natural capital (NC); in land, water and urban management. It will identify how, where and when the concepts can most effectively be applied to solve ecological and economic problems and contribute to sustainable human welfare. To do this, it will work with public and private decision makers and stakeholders to better understand the range of policy and management problems faced in different case study contexts (ranging across locales, sectors, scales and time).