The invisible economic benefits of the Danube
"Some of these benefits are tangible - fish, game, herbs, water and gravel. But there are many others, which are invisible such as the regulation of the climate, the regulation and mitigation of floods, the carbon sequestration and the decomposition of wastes”, said Maya Todorova of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.
“It is up to us and our decisions as consumers or producers whether the flow of the benefits from the Danube will be sustained”.
There are many approaches to the sustainable management of Danube's ecosystems. One is a set of economic instruments linking the users of the benefits to their providers, so as to restore or enhance the natural functions of the ecosystems and continue to "produce" the economic benefits.
“This could mean, for example, that a bottling company uses water purified by an upstream forest. In order to maintain this service – a well managed forest – the company pays the forest managers a certain amount of money to ensure they keep this forest. These are legal deals known as Payments for Ecosystem Services schemes”, Todorova said.
WWF is leading the development and implementation of this innovative approach to conservation. Since 2009, WWF has developed four model projects to link the users of ecosystem services to their providers with the purpose to enhance the management of Danube ecosystems. The work has been done under the Danube PES project with the financial support of the GEF through UNEP, and of the European Commission.
Persina Nature Park, Bulgaria
In 2009-2013, WWF set up a market scheme for wetland restoration. Under the scheme a local entrepreneur collects the reeds from a marsh in the Persina Nature Park and processes this biomass into marketable pellets and briquettes. The cutting of reeds is based on a plan on the sustainable use of wetland biomass and contributes to maintain the hydrological regime of the marsh.
Rusenski Lom Nature Park, Bulgaria
This payment for cultural services scheme attracts financial resources from companies from the tourism branch and visitors to the park. Funds are accumulated on a voluntary basis, with the awareness and consent of people, through donations, environmental surcharge or purchasing of tickets in the form of post cards offered at accommodation places in Russenski Lom Nature Park.
This payment for cultural services scheme aims to enhance the aesthetic and biodiversity values of 7 small protected areas by supporting responsible tourism. It is based on a voluntary commitment between local guesthouses and tour operators, on the one hand, and protected area administrators, on the other. Donations made by operators in the form of annual fixed fees are collected in a fund and later allocated to the protected areas, prioritizing among conservation measures in need of funding.
In this scheme, the Romanian government, through public funds, can stimulate fishpond managers in the Ciocanesti area to implement measures contributing to biodiversity conservation and water management, on a voluntary basis. The financial rewards are distributed on the basis of comparison with baseline indicators.