Spatial analysis of the benefits and burdens of ecological focus areas for water-related ecosystem services vulnerable to climate change in Europe
There are many concerns regarding the effects of climate change including threats to ecosystem services. Rural land use can influence these services and there is scope for associated policies to steer decisions towards maximising benefits and minimising burdens. In Europe, for example, ecological focus areas (EFAs), introduced in the last reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, can have impacts on ecosystem services which vary with location, including potential trade-offs between benefits and burdens in some regions. This study combines the outputs from two continental-scale projects to provide a new perspective on the potential impact of EFAs for water-related ecosystem services under threat from climate change. An ecosystem service impact indicator framework was applied in conjunction with a climate change vulnerability assessment. This resulted in vulnerability and area weighted performance scores for dilution, filtration, water provision, and flood regulation services for 10 EFAs in 1256 regions. Best, average and worst case scenario maps were created that highlight the relative benefits and burdens of EFAs. Six EFAs have been identified which have not been activated in nine European Member States but which have potential to provide benefits. Eleven Member States have been identified which have regions where 3 EFAs should be avoided due to potential burdens. This analysis facilitates broad spatial targeting on a continental-scale of specific EFAs which may help maintain (and ideally increase) ecosystem service capacity and resilience in vulnerable regions.