(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Solutions for Climate and Environmental Change)
by Alessandro Sebastiani and Silvano Fares
Ecosystem services delivered by natural ecosystems are increasingly important for climate change adaptation and mitigation and play a huge role in biodiversity conservation. For this reason, the EU has the ambitious goal of protecting at least 30% of land by 2030. Member states are called to improve and expand the network of protected areas within the next few years; to do so, scientific studies aimed at identifying areas with high ecological value, as well as at defining best management practices, are highly needed. In this study, we used the InVEST suite of models to spatially assess three regulating ecosystem services, that is, carbon storage, seasonal water yield, and urban flood risk mitigation in three administrative regions of central Italy. Using overlay analysis, we found areas with the highest delivery in each of the considered ESs; based on these findings, we eventually proposed four new protected areas, which combine for 888 km2, that is, 2.73% of the study area. Interestingly, each of the newly proposed protected areas has somehow been discussed and hypothesized by stakeholders, but only one is presumably going to be part of the national network of protected areas within the next years. Hopefully, by prioritizing areas according to the production of ecosystem services, this study can be intended as a step towards the systematic inclusion of ecosystem services studies for enhancing the network of areas under national protection schemes and achieving the goal of protecting at least 30% of land in Europe by 2030.