GUARDIAN activities are aimed at reducing wildfire risk at Riba-roja and Paterna municipalities. However, there will be further benefits derived from the project implementation that will contribute to making life much better in this area. GUARDIAN will hence ensure La Vallesa ecosystem services, understood as the set of benefits that ecological processes and natural structures offer to human society. Ecosystem services are diverse by nature, including provisioning services such as food, water, timber, etc.; regulating services that affect climate, diseases, water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic, educational services and supporting services such as photosynthesis, or nutrient cycling. In turn, the benefits for people can be expressed by different types of constituents of well-being, like health, security, basics for a good life (adequate livelihoods, enough food and shelter, etc.) or good social relations. Adapted from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report, a summary of ecosystem services and impacts is shown in Figure 1. The reading is just a must to understand the essential relation between conservation of ecosystems and human well-being!
Indeed, GUARDIAN will promote several ecosystem services in La Vallesa Natural area, like biodiversity conservation, water availability, recreational services and natural disaster risk reduction. It is well acknowledged by everyone that all these will lead to multiple social and environmental benefits in Riba-roja and Paterna and have to be somehow considered in the GUARDIAN economic balances and hence be qualified in monetary terms. As Mr. Conca (manager of EPSAR, the public entity for residual water management at Comunidad Valenciana) puts it “what is not quantifiable does not exist” so the challenge here is to clearly identify and quantify all direct and indirect benefits together with all implementation costs and do the maths. The concept is straight forward but the techniques to do so are not that simple!