SS15. Sustainable development and management of geosystem services

Like ecosystem, the geosystem is a source of various services (regulating, cultural, supporting, and provisioning) that support human well-being. These geosystem services are often undervalued and overexploited. The utilization of geosystem services (e. g. geothermal energy extraction, carbon capture and storage, groundwater use) has a lasting impact in the long term. With increasing demands and use cases of planet’s geodiversity, it is crucial to clarify the sustainable use of geosystem services for defining the limits of utilization. Utilizing geosystem services at sustainable levels demands an interdisciplinary perspective that connects the technical realities of geological sciences with approaches found in ecological economics. Through this session, we would like to draw contributions that discuss the methodological and conceptual aspects of sustainable scale for managing geosystem services thereby addressing the interactions between earth sciences, ecological economics and environmental sciences.

  • Expected proposals format: conventional panel contributions
  • Keywords: Geosystem Services, Ecosystem Services, Subsurface management, Sustainable scale
  • Related track(s): 8. Energy, resources, and energy/matter flow analyses
  • Organizers: Eswaran, Adithya (University of Antwerp, Belgium); Lamberts-Van Assche, Hanne (University of Antwerp, Belgium); Compernolle, Tine (University of Antwerp, Belgium; Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium); Piessens, Kris (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium)

Full description

Similar to ecosystems, the subsurface as a part of the geosystem is a multi-functional unit that provides supporting, regulating, cultural, and provisioning services. Recently, the term geosystem services have been used to address the services arising from the abiotic structures and processes arising from the geosystem. The term geosystem services allow for regarding the subsurface as a complex and interlinked system that results in a wide range of uses arising from different depths of the subsurface. Additionally, viewing the subsurface utilization through the lenses of geosystem services acknowledges the various functions of the subsurface that expand from the extraction of resources to the use of the subsurface as a sink to its role in supporting ecosystem functioning. With increasing uses and demand to satisfy the growing needs of industrial production and human consumption, the subsurface is being exploited at a pace that cannot be supported by finite stocks without leading to the eventual depletion of the resources. There is a looming threat of over-exploitation, therefore it is critical to minimize the risk of depletion and balance conservation with utilization.

Currently, subsurface management is looked at from an independent activity level (for instance groundwater, critical raw minerals, geothermal energy extraction). The objective of such an approach is to optimize resource use based on economic considerations. Typically, the concepts of safe-yield and sustainable yield are under-represented with such approaches. The geosystem being a key source of services that impact human welfare, it is paramount to develop an understanding of how this multi-functional resource can be sustainably managed. This session intends to welcome contributions that integrates the various disciplines including (hydro)geology, sociology, economics, and environmental sciences to assess and conceptualize the sustainable use of geosystem services. Through this proposed session, we want to reinforce the intrinsic value of geosystem, its finiteness and its fragility due to anthropogenic activities. Being a finite resource with varied regeneration rates and varied functions, it is an important resource that needs to be discussed from the lenses of sustainable scale.

Through this session, we would like to invite contributions that consider  geosystem services in an inter-disciplinary setting accounting  for the interaction between the dimensions of geology and earth sciences, economics and environmental science. More specifically, the following: 

  • Understanding the implications of sustainability for the geosystem services: The guiding principles for sustainable development have so far not been applied specifically to geosystem services. Therefore, there is no common understanding of what criteria to put forward to guide sustainability evaluation, and how to measure them. Methodological or conceptual contributions that shed more light on the principles that are required to guide the management of geosystem services in a sustainable manner are encouraged. 
  • Sustainable development of the geosystem services: The geosystem services consists of a combination of  renewable and non-renewable resources, but those can become depleted if overproduced. This would lead to a supply interruption of several decades. This is a future concern, but one that needs to be understood today. Contributions that provide an alternative to the existing ad-hoc or first-come-first-served regime are welcome. Such contributions will serve in establishing fundamental understanding towards managing the subsurface on long-term. 
  • Social sustainability of development of geosystem services: Subsurface developments impact nearby residents  in a disproportional way. Such structural inequities lead to social opposition resulting from the neglection of relevant values. Contributions that addresses the interconnected rules/norms within and between the different stakeholders in a societal context for the subsurface are invited. 

The outcome of the sessions is relevant to the fundamentals of the approaches of Ecological Economics. Through this sessions, the contributions shed light on the approaches to consider the geosystem as source of functions and services that have an intrinsic value. Addressing the geosystem (of which the subsurface is a part of) from this perspective allows for re-evaluating the ongoing utilization rates. Thereby, establishing limits to geosystem services use based on the principles of strong sustainability. Geosystem services management, when aligned with the degrowth concept, offers a pathway to sustainable, equitable, and environmentally responsible resource use principles. It will contribute to a more balanced and regenerative relationship between the limits of finite natural capital, utilization patterns within the economy and societal structures, essential for a degrowth-oriented future. Addressing the management of services stemming from the geosystem is vital for addressing the management of natural capital comprehensively. Although geosystem services vary from ecosystem services temporally and spatially, they need to be an active part of the discussion on managing natural capital.

The scientific contribution of the  proposed session emphasizes on the methodologies and the approaches that are required to reduce resource consumption and waste. Particularly, addressing the sustainable practices for the utilization of geosystem services that can ultimately translate to decreasing pressure on earth’s resources (both ecosystem and geosystem combined). By defining the limits of utilization of geosystem services, the interlinkages between geosystem services and ecosystems is expected to be addressed through this session. 

Session Format:

  • Presentations format: Conventional panel contributions
  • Chair of the session: Tine Compernolle and Kris Piessens 

1. Introduction (5 minutes) 

The session kicks off with an overview of the significance of sustainable management of geosystem services. The stage will be set for a deep dive into the various presentations that follow.

2. Presentations (15 minutes/presenter) 

Each presenter will be given strictly 12 minutes for the presentation with 3 minutes devoted for questions from the audience or the chair. Based on the time limitations, a maximum of 5 participants and a minimum of 3 presenters can participate in this session. In case of presenters lesser than 5, more time can be devoted for questions. 

3. Closing Remarks (2 mins): Concluding the session with gratitude for the presenters and the audience. If time permits, audience can ask questions to the presenters. 

The takeaways for the presenters will be in form of feedback from peers and experts to enhance the robustness of their research. While for the other audience, they can be exposed to the diverse perspectives and approaches within the management of geosystem services.