Multifunctionality of floodplain landscapes: relating management options to ecosystem services, Schindler et al. 2014

Compendium Volume 2 Number 2 January 2019 r.1

Human societies tend to value the potential benefits that a landscape might provide in a limited way, adjusting management practices towards desired outputs by maximizing the benefits gained from one or some of the services (often the provision of goods) leading to the loss of multifunctionality and the degradation of natural capital at the expense of human welfare. As a result of this biased valuation, the opportunity costs of biodiversity conservation have been perceived as too high [Schindler 2014: 230].

Using a lens of landscape multifunctionality, this study evaluates 38 potential interventions (ranging from mining, agriculture and residential development to dam removal, natural habitat creation and hiking trail maintenance) in European floodplain ecosystems for their potential to provide multiple ecosystem services (ESS). “Most ESS arise from living organisms and the interaction of biotic and abiotic processes, and refer specifically to the ‘final’ outputs from landscapes that provide benefits to humans”  [Schindler 2014: 230].

Each intervention was evaluated to determine whether its effect on a given ecosystem service was positive, negative or neutral. The more ecosystem services an intervention was considered to positively affect (such as pollination, water purification, flood mitigation, providing for farming, fishing, drinking water, or recreation), the greater its contribution to landscape multifunctionality.

Interventions with the most positive effects were related to the creation of natural habitat, dike relocation, lateral floodplain reconnection, creation of channels, oxbows and ponds, whereas the interventions [related to] terrestrial settlement and transportation infrastructure, navigational infrastructure, and intensive forms of agriculture, forestry and fisheries are rather problematic when preserving multifunctionality in floodplains [Schindler 2014: 238].

Thus the authors found that:

Restoration and rehabilitation measures strongly improved the multifunctionality of the landscape and caused winwin situations for enhancing overall ESS supply for all regulation/maintenance and cultural services, but also for provisioning services [Schindler 2014: 242].

In short, a multifunctional approach allows for ecosystem services and goods that we depend on yet often take for granted, such as clean, abundant drinking water, clean air, pollination, and productive wild fish populations, for example, to be considered in economic evaluations of sites and landscapes such as floodplains.

Schindler, Stefan, Zita Sebesvari, Christian Damm, et al., 2014, Multifunctionality of floodplain landscapes: relating management options to ecosystem services, Landscape Ecology 29,

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