Ecosystem services for water policy: Insights across Europe

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In this research we explored how the concepts and approaches of ecosystem services are currently used in water management in Europe, in the application of River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) developed for the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). Five case studies have been considered, located in the River Basin Districts of the Po river (Italy), Scotland (United Kingdom), Scheldt river (Belgium), Danube river (Romania), Sado and Mira rivers and Ribeiras do Algarve (Portugal). These cases represent different regional contexts of application of this EU water policy, with specific socio-economic drivers and environmental issues. Each case study has developed an operational framework to analyse ecosystem services in practice together with a group of local stakeholders. In each regional case, we examined how EU water policy and RBMPs are implemented, considered legal and planning instruments from the national to the local scale, and we analysed the use of ecosystem service terms and concepts in the relevant planning instruments. In parallel, we explored the view of local stakeholders and water managers on the topic, collecting their opinion on three major aspects: the usefulness of the concepts and approaches of ecosystem services for WFD river basin management plans, the risks and benefits of their use, and the knowledge needs to put the concepts into practice. The major drawback of the ecosystem service approach seems to be the challenge for practitioners of understanding new concepts and methodologies, while the major advantages are that it highlights all the hidden benefits of a water body in good health and promotes multi-functionality and sustainability in water management. The results of this study provide a picture across Europe of the current use of the concepts of ecosystem services in the RBMP and relevant insight on the opinion of local stakeholders and water managers.




Grizzetti, B., Liquete, C., Antunes, P., Carvalho, L., Geamănă, N., Giucă, R., … Woods, H. (2016). Ecosystem services for water policy: Insights across Europe. Environmental Science and Policy, 66, 179–190.

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