Framework for integrated Ecosystem Services assessment of the costs and benefits of large scale landscape restoration illustrated with a case study in Mediterranean Spain

Groot, Rudolf de; Moolenaar, Simon; Vente, Joris de; Leijster, Vincent De; Ramos, María Eugenia; Robles, Ana Belen; Schoonhoven, Yanniek; Verweij, Pita


To prevent landscape degradation and the continuing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, decisions regarding landscape restoration should be based on their ‘true’ costs and benefits (i.e. broader welfare effects), including all externalities (positive and negative). In this paper, we present a framework consisting of nine steps to analyze, quantify and, where possible, monetize and capture the effects of changes in land use and management on the true costs and benefits. To illustrate this framework we applied it to large scale landscape restoration in a dryland region in SE Spain that is facing serious land degradation. Based on fieldwork involving several farms and expert interviews between 2017 and 2019, and additional literature review, we compared the costs and benefits, using the so-called Social- or Integrated Cost-Benefit Analyses (i-CBA) approach, of three land use systems: a multi-functional sustainable land use system (MFU) with those of almond monoculture under conventional management (CM) and under sustainable land management (SLM). Our study demonstrates that conventional financial CBA favors short-term, usually non-sustainable, land use. Using i-CBA gives a more realistic insight in the true welfare effects of landscape restoration. Our analysis also shows that a transition from conventional monoculture to multi-functional sustainable land use at the farm-level is only financially feasible when all externalities are accounted for and compensated. Our integrated approach enables the identification of opportunities and mechanisms to optimize multifunctional land use and capture the ‘full value’ of landscape restoration through so-called blended financing mechanisms. Eventually, sustainable land management can then become the norm rather than the exception because it is both financially more profitable for the private land owner and economically, environmentally and socially more beneficial to the community and society as a whole.