Valuing and Conserving Ecosystem Services: a Scoping Case Study in the Danube Basin

Recent initiatives such as the study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), have highlighted the importance of better understanding the economic value of ecosystem services and developing instruments to capture and reward these values, thereby encouraging the wiser and sustainable use of our ecosystems. To support the ‘TEEB philosophy’ WWF commissioned IEEP in 2010 to carry out a scoping assessment of how to put the key recommendations of the TEEB initiative into practice, through a case study on ecosystem services in the Danube River Basin.

The findings from the study highlight the importance of a number of key ecosystem services in the Danube River Basin (such as carbon storage, water resource provision and cultural values that underpin tourism). Although their monetary values cannot be easily quantified it is clear that a precautionary approach to the conservation of ecosystem services should be followed. But in practice, ecosystem services are often weak drivers in decision making because their values are often unknown or underestimated, and rarely fully captured in economic markets. Consequently, most of these services are being degraded or at risk, largely as a result of unsustainable practices.

The study therefore demonstrates the urgent need to improve our knowledge of the relationships between ecosystem properties and the value of ecosystem services, improve the implementation of existing ecosystem conservation measures and develop new means of financially supporting ecosystem services, such as through commercial markets (eg for carbon), the use of ‘green taxes’ or the development of sustainability criteria.
Finally, the study emphasises the need for all policy instruments to be better targeted and integrated to encourage multi-functional land use that supports a balanced range of ecosystem services rather than those driven by short-term and narrow economic needs.

Further information on the Danube-Carpathian Programme can be found on the WWF website.

Contact: Graham Tucker and Marianne Kettunen.

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