Valuing water quality improvements from peatland restoration: evidence and challenges
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There is evidence that damaged peatlands can negatively affect the delivery of water related ecosystem services. There is interest in peatland restoration to meet different regulatory targets, including the Water Framework Directive (WFD). A comprehensive assessment of the economic benefits of restoration is missing. This paper synthesises hydrological and bio-geochemical knowledge on peatland restoration, as well as insights in the monetary valuation of water quality improvements in freshwater systems. This is used to identify challenges in valuing water quality related benefits from peatland restoration. The paper concludes that there is strong evidence for rapid ecological responses to peatland restoration related to reduced suspended sediment loads, and sufficient evidence that re-wetting will prevent further decline in water quality. Two main challenges arise for valuation: (1) incomplete evidence of effects of restoration on final ecosystem services and benefits, and (2) the spatial and temporal differences in peatlands’ responses. We suggest developing valuation scenarios on a case-by-case basis, using best available evidence of the changes associated with restoration described by a categorization of peatland status similar to the ecological status ladders developed for the WFD. These would need to be tested with the public and should include an element of uncertainty in services provision.
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