Forests for water in Catalonia

Centre de Proprietat Forestal (CPF) supported by Forest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia (CTFC)

The intention of this innovation case is to work on the different steps that need to be taken to strengthen the link between forests and water using a real case study. The overall aim is to diversify the financing sources for forest management by means of integrating ecosystem service provision into the economic balance sheet. This requires work at different levels: recognition of the role of forests on water-related ecosystem services by all actors, identification of the most suitable mechanisms to apply, strengthened governance and cooperation and others.  So far, the focus is on two strategies:

-To take advantage of the process of producing the Masterplan for the Rialb Reservoir, where different local stakeholders (economic, tourism, water and others) are already working together. The intention is to use this process both as an icebreaker to present the water-forest related issues, and to achieve written recognition in a legal document of the role of forestry in water and landscape conservation, and the recognition of forestry as a potentially relevant economic activity in the area that can be promoted along with tourism.

-To work with the public Segre-Rialb Consortium to assess the suitability of a payment for ecosystem services scheme in relation to water in the area, and to use them as facilitators in the process of, eventually, finding potential “buyers” of the ecosystem services provided by foresters, appealing to the corporate social responsibility and marketing objectives of tourism companies.

Representatives of the actors that are potentially involved in decision making and/or are affected by the forest ecosystem services scheme are expected to be engaged, including the forest owners’ association of La Baronia de Rialb, the Segre-Rialb Consortium, the administration in charge of land planning and water management, as well as the forest administration. The users of the reservoir and surrounding area and the users of the water stored in the reservoir will also be invited to participate.

Society’s awareness of the role of forests and forestry in the water cycle is expected to be increased. The aim is to identify the most suitable mechanism that allows for economic resources to be allocated to forest management and for forest multifunctionality to be integrated into the economic balance of forest management. Last, the project will engage stakeholders that are not usually involved in the forest sector in the pilot area. This engagement may take the form of new mechanisms of cooperation or governance and, if possible, new mechanisms of compensation for ecosystem service provision. Different economic sectors of local importance (i.e. tourism) and different administrative sectors (forests, territory planning, water) will be tackled at different levels.

The implementation of the Forest Ecosystem Services Scheme in Catalonia has been present in the political agenda for a long time. However, it still exists only in theory rather than in practice. SINCERE will contribute to its implementation through the process of learning from other experiences abroad and through the support of the project roadmap that will guide the process.

Teresa Baiges Zapater