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The Value of Natural Riverine Landscapes

Near-natural riverine landscapes provide a high value for society: they are habitat for many animals and plants and recreational areas for many people. In addition, floodplains are important for preventive flood protection and are attractive areas for agriculture due to their high soil fertility. All these direct and indirect contributions of nature and landscape to human well-being are conceptualized with the concept of ecosystem services. 

These values are multidimensional and influenced by different perceptions of nature, value concepts as well as their change over time. Values can be seen from different perspectives, for example by focusing either on the intrinsic value of nature or rather on the benefits for humans. Furthermore, experiences, individual preferences and aspects of nature conservation ethics play a role.

The loss of natural and near-natural floodplains suggest that the value of these ecosystems is traditionally not sufficiently included in social and political decisions. This is partly because most environmental goods are public goods that have societal value but no market price.

A better understanding and recognition of the societal benefits of ecosystem services, for example with the help of economic valuation approaches, not only lead to a higher societal and political awareness of the value of nature, but also to better decisions in terms of a sustainable development of riverine landscapes.