NatGuidES - Identification, assessment and mapping of ecosystem services in valuable nature conservation areas in Slovenia

target research project
Basic Info


Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems and are one of the key tools for assessing the sustainability of the use of natural resources. ES provided by Valuable Nature Conservation Areas (VNCA) which are characterized by high levels of biodiversity are of great value to society. 13% of mainland Slovenia covered in 50 large -scale and 1218 small-scale protected areas, 37% of the territory in the Natura 2000 network and over 17,400 natural values - provide numerous ES important to the general public such as for example binding of atmospheric carbon in aboveground plant biomass and soil, retention of pollutants and prevention of their leaching into groundwater, attractive space for recreation and tourism activities. VNCA are also an important generator of local identity of the space, which offers opportunities for additional development opportunities. Despite the fact that in Slovenia we have managed to preserve the integrity of ecosystems and prevent their degradation more than elsewhere in the world, a systemic change in the development model is necessary. Habitat fragmentation due to urbanisation, degradation due to unsustainable use, settlement of invasive plant and animal species, and disappearance of some rare ecosystems due to abandonment of traditional agricultural use, and overgrowing continue. A step towards improving the understanding of these issues and raising awareness of the concept of ES, which is currently weakly present in Slovenia, also involves mapping and assessment of ES in the VNCA.

For effective implementation of the ES concept, ES assessment and monitoring the evolution of the ES, a high quality database that allows reliable processing of the ES is crucial. In the context of VNCA, where we expect an even more pronounced diversity of ES due to well-preserved nature and biodiversity, the need for high quality data that is spatially and temporally comprehensive is even more important. Taking into account the values of ES in the preparation and adoption of development, spatial planning and other strategic or operational documents will be important for the long-term maintenance of high levels of biodiversity, preserved natural values and consequently for a better quality of life of the population. Therefore, the main aim of the project will be to establish a protocol for identification and mapping of ES in the VNCA. 

The main objectives of the project are:

  • to establish a typology of VNCA from the perspective of spatial units for ES identification, 
  • to establish ES mapping and assessment protocols in at least one selected pilot area in VNCA, 
  • to prepare a manual with recommendations for ES assessment in VNCA to support spatial, development and guidelines for integrating the ES concept into the nature protection system, and 
  • to disseminate results and findings. 

The main methodological approaches will be the establishment of a solid theoretical basis, interactive participatory workshops with stakeholders and fieldwork in at least one pilot area. 


The objectives achieved by the project will provide sound, credible and systematic data that will:

  • help managers and decision-makers to find synergies in future spatial development scenarios, 
  • be important for raising public awareness of the role of VNCA in relation to human well-being and landscape conservation. 
  • form a solid basis for national policy decisions,
  • provide sound source of data which Slovenia will report to European Commission in the coming years, and last but not least 
  • contribute to international engagement in the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy


  • Šmid Hribar, M., Japelj, A., Vurunić, S. 2021: Systematic Mapping of Studies on Ecosystem Services in Slovenia / Sistematično kartiranje raziskav o ekosistemskih storitvah v Sloveniji. Geografski vestnik 93-1, 9–62. Dostopno na:   

ecosystem services
environment protection
Natura 2000
protected area