Mapping and assessing ecosystem services for the 2nd RBMP in Malta's River Basin District

LIFE-IP-RBMP-Malta - Optimising the the implementation of the 2nd RBMP in the Maltese River Basin District

The LIFE-IP-RBMP-Malta project is an eight year project led by the Energy and Water Agency and co-financed under the EU LIFE Programme. The project supports the implementation of the second River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) through the establishment of an integrated framework for the optimised management of all water resources on the Maltese islands.

Ecostack Innovations Limited has been commissioned by the authorities to quantify and assess ecosystem services in order to inform water management actions within the Maltese Islands. Our team at Ecostack Innovations is also assessing the impacts of the project on ecosystem services and, for the first time for Malta, has developed a multidisciplinary methodology to assess and quantify ecosystem services in water catchments covering most of the national territory.

Mapping and assessing ecosystem services

Ecostack Innovations has developed a methodology together that can be used to assess and quantify ecosystem services in key water catchments and at national level in the Maltese Islands.

The methodology developed by our team has led to the categorisation of valley catchments in Malta and Gozo to determine the relative importance of different catchments and sub catchments in delivering key ecosystem services and their value to society.

The methodology has included expert ranking during a workshop conducted with experts and stakeholders in environmental management. The final result was presented in a matrix of average rankings of services per land use. Additionally, ecosystem service indicators were identified and quantified for a total of 17 ecosystem services and 34 land use categories from valley catchments in Malta. Ecosystem service indicators were based on proxy-data and models for the study area, and included a range of biological, physicochemical and socio-cultural and economic variables. These have been presented in the form of maps and illustrations for each indicator and model.

The produced maps serve to categorise each catchment in terms of its perceived benefits to society, along with an estimate of the economic value of selected ecosystem services. This information is useful for decision-makers to appropriately prioritise interventions and to understand the social and economic values of nature's benefits.

Some of the data is openly shared by the Parks Malta, and is accessible from the LIFE RBMP Valley Management Unit (Parks Malta) Geoportal available from here.

The ecosystem service assessments and the categorisation of catchments are expected to be used as part of the evidence-base necessary to inform management interventions and actions for the sustainable use of the valleys and their ecosystems.

This is an important step in the development of an understanding of the capacity of ecosystems to provide ecosystem services and the use of arising benefits by society, and is probably the first time an ecosystem service assessment is carried out for use in environmental policy-making in Malta.