A step-by-step guide for payment schemes

European Union water policy aims to ensure good quality water for people and the environment. However, only 40% of surface water is in good ecological condition despite member states’ efforts. Water pollution derives mainly from agricultural activities, which generate excessive emissions of nutrients (nitrates and phosphates), pesticides, sediment and faecal indicator Organisms (FIO).

Member states are adopting best-practice farming measures to reduce pollution and improve water quality – such as nutrient planning and reduced tillage. However, these activities alone are insufficient to achieve the required environmental standards.

Achieving good ecological status of water requires a significant change in land use. Substantial benefits can be obtained from tree planting and forest management in a broader framework of integrated catchment management.

Trees provide many ecosystem services: they protect habitats, preserve water quality, mitigate flooding effects, and prevent soil erosion. Tree planting and forest management also counteract agricultural pollution, promoting carbon storage and maintaining land and food security.

However, costs discourage tree planting, especially on productive agricultural land. This is why incentives such as payments for ecosystem services (PES) are needed. PES makes it possible to protect and improve the provision of ecosystem services, optimising the management of natural resources.

To address these needs, PESFOR-W COST Action – with the contribution of Etifor – has produced the study “Forests for Water Services: A Step-by-Step Guide for Payment Schemes”. The study aims to guide the implementation of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes that support tree planting and forest management to protect and improve water quality.

Forests for Water Services: A Step-by-Step Guide for Payment Schemes

Promoted by PESFOR-W COST Action

Lead author: Nisbet, T.R.
Contributing authors: Maria-Beatrice Andreucci, Rik De Vreese, Lars Högbom, Sonja Kay, Mary Kelly-Quinn, Alessandro Leonardi, Mariyana I. Lyubenova, Paola Ovando Pol, Paula Quinteiro, Ignacio Pérez Silos, Gregory Valatin.