CA COST Action CA15206
Payments for Ecosystem Services (Forests for Water)
The EU Water Framework Directive aims to ensure restoration of Europe’s water bodies to “good ecological status” by 2027. Many Member States will struggle to meet this target, with around half of EU river catchments currently reporting below standard water quality. Diffuse pollution from agriculture represents a major pressure, affecting over 90% of river basins. Accumulating evidence shows that recent improvements to agricultural practices are benefiting water quality but in many cases will be insufficient to achieve WFD objectives. There is growing support for land use change to help bridge the gap, with a particular focus on targeted tree planting to intercept and reduce the delivery of diffuse pollutants to water. This form of integrated catchment management offers multiple benefits to society but a significant cost to landowners and managers.
New economic instruments, in combination with spatial targeting, need to be developed to ensure cost-effective solutions - including tree planting for water benefits - are realised. Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are flexible, incentive-based mechanisms that could play an important role in promoting land use change to deliver water quality targets. The PESFOR-W COST Action will consolidate learning from existing woodlands for water PES schemes in Europe and help standardize approaches to evaluating the environmental effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of woodland measures. It will also create a European network through which PES schemes can be facilitated, extended and improved, for example by incorporating other ecosystem services linking with aims of the wider forests-carbon policy nexus.
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