Promoting Payments for Ecosystem Services in the Danube Basin

Posted on 27 May 2010    
River through fir forest, Retezat National Park, Carpathian Mountains, South-West Romania
© Michel Gunther / WWF
A landmark project seeking to develop and share experience of the role and contribution of Payments for Ecosystem Services to rural development and conservation, is being kick-started today in Ruse, Bulgaria.

The project, which will last for four years, will promote Payments for Ecosystem Services and Related Sustainable Financing Schemes in the Lower Danube. During the course of the project national and local-level PES/SF schemes will be developed and demonstrated, focusing on Romania and Bulgaria. Another aim of the project is to integrate this approach into the River Basin Management Plans for the River Danube and its sub-basins. A major focus for the project is on sharing this experience with other Danube countries, especially Serbia and Ukraine, as well as with other major river basins and the international community.

On the project steering committee are officials from the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, UNEP GEF, deputy-ministers and representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Finance and the Regions in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

Payments for Ecosystem Services

Payments for Ecosystem Services are the multiple benefits that people receive from nature, such as water purification and flood control by wetlands. The Payments for Ecosystem Services schemes reward those whose lands provide these services, with subsidies or market payments from those who benefit.

The concept of Payments for Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Financing schemes are attracting growing attention in conservation and development circles as promising solutions to improve rural conservation and rural livelihoods as well as to transform harmful production subsidies into helpful payments for ecosystem services.

Arranging payments for the benefits provided by forests and other natural ecosystems is a way to recognize their value and ensure that these benefits continue well beyond present generations. It encourages landowners to manage resources in a manner that ensures they continue to generate the environmental services. In addition to benefiting biodiversity, such schemes also have a potential to benefit poor landowners who manage these environmental services.

“WWF is leading the development and implementation of this innovative approach to conservation”, said Maya Todorova, Project Manager of the PES project. “We want to promote the PES concept along the Lower Danube. To this end we will set up model projects to demonstrate how national and local-level PES schemes can work both in the public and private sector”.

The overall goals of this project are to make Payments for Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Financing mainstream in the Danube basin, to show how PES and SF schemes can work in large-scale international watersheds and, last but not least, to secure global environmental benefits.

"I would suggest that PES schemes in the Danube basin should try to match a variety of demands and supplies for ecosystem services", said Pablo Gutman, Director Environmental Economics at WWF. "This can include directing EU rural payments to support PES schemes and focusing on ecosystem services for markets that have capacity to pay for them, such as the energy sector, nature related tourism, water-related users, certified nature friendly products as well as carbon sequestration and biodiversity offsets", Gutman said.

About the Lower Danube

After squeezing through the Iron Gates gorge and dams between Serbia and Romania, the Danube flows free for 1,000 kilometers through Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. The Lower Danube is one of the last free-flowing stretches of river in Europe.

The Lower Danube and the Danube Delta are especially important as breeding and resting places for some 331 species of birds, including the rare Dalmatian pelican, the white-tailed eagle, as well as 90% of the world population of red-breasted geese.

Beluga sturgeon, which can grow to a length of 6 meters are famous for their caviar. They spawn in the gravel banks of the Lower Danube and migrate downstream to spend the rest of the year in the Black Sea.

However, dependent on this part of the river are not only Europe’s greatest natural treasures, but also the 29 million people who live in the Lower Danube River basin – people who directly benefit from the many services that the river provides, from drinking water to natural resources and recreation.

“I believe that PES will contribute to rural development and conservation in the Lower Danube basin and will give us a valuable know-how which we can then share”, said Maya Todorova.

The project will go on until December 2013.

This project is implemented by WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme with the financial support of the UNEP GEF and the European Commission.
River through fir forest, Retezat National Park, Carpathian Mountains, South-West Romania
© Michel Gunther / WWF Enlarge

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