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In the Lower Danube countries Romania and Bulgaria, as part of the Danube PES project, we are working on five pilot areas with the perspective of sharing lessons internationally.
We all benefit from nature in various ways, be it as a tourist wandering around a natural forests, a farmer depending on the micro-organisms in the soil or a beverage company bottling mineral water.
However, we are used to looking at these ecosystem goods and services largely as free and inexhaustible resource, as we don´t know how to assess nature´s value and are not forced to pay a proper price for it. This creates an imbalance between use and stock (availability) and consequently a deterioration of the natural captial.
Public authorities need to step up efforts in valuing ecosystem services and acknowledging these values in cost-benefit analyses, planning processes, market incentives and the allocation of public funds. However, also non-state actors have a role to play. By engaging in the pilot payment for ecosystem services schemes of the WWF project, local people and businesses have become more aware of the important benefits they are used to enjoy for free, such as healthy food, clean air, beautiful landscapes, or watching rare birds, thus motivating them to make immediate and long-term investments into biodiversity conservation. And finally, consumers can make a positive contribution by making responsible choices and giving priority to commodities and services causing the least burden to ecosystems, even if the price is – still - higher.