Integrated valuation of a nature-based solution for water pollution control. Highlighting hidden benefits

Liquete, C. et al. | Ecosystem Services | 2016 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


In this study we assess multiple benefits (environmental, social and economic) provided by a multi-purpose green infrastructure (a series of constructed wetlands surrounded by a park) in a peri-urban area, and compare it with the alternative grey infrastructure and with the previous situation (a poplar plantation). We apply a multi-criteria analysis as a basis for integrated valuation. We address specific policy needs (strategic objectives) for the local territorial planning in the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive. The analysis is used retrospectively (ex post evaluation) but our results could also be used prospectively to appraise new proposals of constructed wetlands under similar circumstances. The results reflect that the green infrastructure performs equal or even better than the grey infrastructure alternative for water purification and flood protection, it has a similar cost, and it provides additional benefits (like wildlife support and recreation). The most preferred alternative is the green infrastructure, followed by the grey infrastructure and the poplar plantation. This study demonstrates (a) the effectiveness of investments on nature-based solutions, (b) the potential of green infrastructures for delivering a broad range of ecosystem services, and (c) the utility of integrating different value systems and stakeholders’ viewpoints to support environmental decision-making.