Mapping wetland loss and restoration potential in Flanders (Belgium): an ecosystem service perspective
Kris Decleer, Research Institute for Nature and Forest
Jan Wouters, Research Institute for Nature and Forest
Sander Jacobs, Research Institute for Nature and Forest
Jan Staes, Ecosystem Management Research Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp
Toon Spanhove, Research Institute for Nature and Forest
Patrick Meire, Ecosystem Management Research Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp
Rudy van Diggelen, Ecosystem Management Research Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp
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With the case of Flanders (northern part of Belgium) we present an integrated approach to calculate accurate losses of wetlands, potentials for restoration, and their ecosystem services supplies and illustrate how these insights can be used to evaluate and support policy making. Flanders lost about 75% of its wetland habitats in the past 50–60 years, with currently only 68,000 ha remaining, often in a more or less degraded state. For five different wetland categories (excluding open waters) we calculated that restoration of lost wetland is still possible for an additional total area of about 147,000 ha, assuming that, with time and appropriate measures and techniques, the necessary biophysical and ecological conditions can more or less be restored or created. Wetland restoration opportunities were mapped according to an open and forested landscape scenario. Despite the fact that for 49,000 ha wetland restoration is justifiable by the actual presence of an appropriate spatial planning and/or protection status, the official Flemish nature policy only foresees 7,400 to 10,600 ha of additional wetland (open waters excluded) by 2050. The benefits of a more ambitious wetland restoration action program are underpinned by an explorative and quantified analysis of ecosystem service supply for each of the two scenarios, showing that the strongly increased supply of several important regulating and cultural ecosystem services might outweigh the decrease of food production, especially if extensive farming on temporary wet soils remains possible. Finally, we discuss the challenges of wetland restoration policies for biodiversity conservation and climate change.
ecosystem service valuation; wetland loss; wetland policy; wetland restoration scenarios
Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.