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Payments for Ecosystem Services (Forest for water)

Home research Payments for Ecosystem Services (Forest for water)



The aim of the PESFOR-W COST Action is to synthesize knowledge, provide guidance and encourage collaborative research to improve Europe’s capacity to use Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) to achieve Water Framework Directive (WFD) targets & other policy objectives through incentives for planting woodlands to reduce agricultural diffuse pollution to watercourses.

PESFOR Flyer 2019

Description of the COST Action

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) aims to ensure restoration of Europe’s water bodies to ‘good ecological status’ by 2027. Many Member States will struggle to meet this target, with around half of EU river catchments currently reporting below standard water quality. Diffuse pollution from agriculture represents a major pressure, affecting over 90% of river basins. Accumulating evidence shows that recent improvements to agricultural practices are benefiting water quality but in many cases will be insufficient to achieve WFD objectives. There is growing support for land use change to help bridge the gap, with a particular focus on targeted tree planting to intercept and reduce the delivery of diffuse pollutants to water. This form of integrated catchment management offers multiple benefits to society but may incur significant costs to landowners and managers.

New economic instruments, in combination with spatial targeting, need to be developed to ensure cost-effective solutions – including tree planting for water benefits, are realised. Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) are flexible, incentive-based mechanisms that could play an important role in promoting land use change to delivery water quality targets. PESFOR-W will consolidate learning from existing woodlands for water PES schemes in Europe and help standarize approaches to evaluating the environmental effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of woodland measures. It will also create a European network through which PES schemes can be facilitated, extended and improved, for example by incorporating other ecosystem services linking with aims of the wider forests-carbon policy nexus.

Further details can be found in the Memorandum of Understanding.



The Action started on 18th October 2016 and and finished on 17th April 2021.


For further information, please contact:


Dr Gregory Valatin

Vice Chair

Prof Gebhard Scheuler

Funders and partners

PESFORW logo 2021

COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a funding agency for research and innovation networks.  Our Actions help connect research initiatives across Europe and enable scientists to grow their ideas by sharing them with their peers.  This boosts their research, career and innovation.


Funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union  – EU COST Action CA15206.