Is money spent on nature conservation, landscape restoration, and sustainable land management a cost or an investment with a high return in benefits? This can be analysed, quantified, and where possible, monetised in a 9-step methodology as provided and shown in this article.

The article applies the methodology to a landscape restoration initiative in the Altiplano region in Eastern Andalusia, Spain. Here, the AlVelAl Association promotes 4 Returns restoration initiatives and supports businesses and farms that implement the Almendrehesa concept: a multi-functional land use system. The article compares this system (‘combined zone’) to conventional almond monoculture, determining their ecosystem services and associated positive and negative externalities, and calculating the private and public economic values.

The results show that converting (‘restoring’) conventional almond production into sustainable, multifunctional land use (Almendrehesa) increases the value of the land by 1,000 €/ha. For a farm or landscape of 1,000 ha, this means that an investment of 1,000,000 euro would have paid itself back, in terms of land value increase, after 20 years at a 5% discount rate.

Therefore, this article clearly shows that ecosystem restoration can be a valuable investment. This can be assessed for your own case as well using the methodology in this article. Calculating the ‘true price’ or value of the provision of goods or services into the market-mechanism will lead to more fair competition in the market and opening up many business opportunities.

An article in SER (Society for Ecological Restoration) News by Rudolf de Groot, Associate Professor Environmental System Analysis (ESAWUR) and Chair Ecosystem Services Partnership, and Simon Moolenaar (PhD), Head of Science & Education at Commonland. See also the Ecosystem Services Partnership guidelines for Integrated Ecosystem Services Assessment for further information and more detailed guidance.