Med-ESCWET Project: Economic valuation of the ecosystem services provided by wetlands in terms of climate change adaptation in the Mediterranean
Although many studies on the impact of climate change on ecosystems already exist or are currently underway, further study is still required on the role of ecosystems as an adaptation tool. Yet, wetlands when not degraded play a direct role (1) in climate regulation by reducing the future level of greenhouse gas emissions and (2) in mitigation of climate change effects by protecting from floods, droughts and coastal storms. Intact floodplains, as an example, contribute in restricting flood risks by storing water, then releasing it gradually into streams and rivers.
The project aims at developing this ecosystem-based approach, as well as assessing the natural infrastructures efficiency compared to the manufactured infrastructures that were, so far, widely favoured.
Summary of the project
The project’s overall objective is promoting acknowledgement of the “buffer to climate change” role played by wetlands with regard to climate change adaptation strategies in the Mediterranean. It is consistent with ecosystem-based adaptation, which is a view recognized and supported by the Convention on Biological Diversity. Wetlands provide a range of ecosystem services : supply (building materials, fishes…), regulating (water purification, erosion control…) and cultural services (leisure and education offers).
Among the regulating services, four were identified that can be included into climate change adaptive strategies, namely:
To sensitizing the decision-makers to the importance of wetlands for climate change adaptation, the project seeks to provide an economic valuation of these services in order to facilitate decision-making. Other environmental services such as supply and cultural services might be assessed according to the data availability and the study feasibility. Economic valuation of the ecosystem services will make it possible to reconcile development and conservation issues. Stakes being higher in the Southern and Eastern countries of the Mediterranean Basin – which are also more vulnerable to climate change consequences – the project gives priority to the implementation of four case studies in these countries.
Specific goals of the project
Results of Med-ESCWET project
The final economic value assigned to an ecosystem service should be systematically interpreted in its context, which does not allow the comparison between several assessments. Thus, the study carried out in the framework of Med-ESCWET project reached the following monetary values:
In the early 21st century, wetlands surface was estimated between 15 and 22 million hectares, representing 1,5% of the global wetlands surface.
The 2/3 of Mediterranean wetlands surface can be found in Algeria, Egypt, France and Turkey.
In the 20th Century, wetlands losses in the world were estimated at 50% compared to those that existed in 1900.
Four pilot sites in the Mediterranean were selected for the economic valuation of one regulating service as part of the Med-ESCWET project: