Mainstreaming the ecosystem services (ES) concept in EU policy-making, i.e., introducing it in a variety of policy fields, comes along with great expectations from practitioners, policy-makers, and scientists to improve environmental policy and halt the loss of biodiversity. While most environmental policies incorporate ES-related governance tools, only very few policies refer to ES explicitly, and for most non-environmental policies mainstreaming has, if at all, just begun. This article addresses three major challenges for mainstreaming the ES concept into EU policies: the need for (1) vertical and (2) horizontal policy integration, and (3) the question of stakeholder involvement in policy-making. It further examines the different meanings of 'mainstreaming' and discusses how the ES concept can be used as boundary concept in participatory processes to overcome the challenges by mediating between the different understandings of the forms and objectives of mainstreaming. The paper draws empirically on a review of legal, policy, and scientific documents and on a focus group with six policy-makers from several EU Directorate Generals. The article finds that mainstreaming the ES concept into EU policy-making is no 'silver bullet' and that expectations management - in particular with respect to the use of economic valuation methods - is necessary to avoid frustration of involved stakeholders. Further, while participatory approaches may be helpful for local policy integration and balancing trade-offs across policy fields, they may fail in face of administrative challenges of vertical policy integration or of imbalanced power relations and opposing agendas on the horizontal policy integration. To become trustworthy and effective organisational structures, new participatory elements need to be effectively linked with the relevant existing administrations and (other) democratically legitimised decision-making structures. Finally, a well-facilitated and careful process of reflection of the boundary work involved may improve the potential of mainstreaming the ES concept.
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