Using an ecosystem services-based approach to measure the benefits of reducing diversions of freshwater: A case study in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia

Neville D. Crossman, Rosalind H. Bark, Matthew J. Colloff, Darla Hatton MacDonald, Carmel A. Pollino

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Citations (Scopus)


Ecosystem services-based approaches have been applied to decisions about trade-offs between alternative uses of land (RaudseppHearne et al. 2010; Maes et al. 2012; Bryan & Crossman 2013; Geneletti 2013; Seppelt et al. 2013), but have been used less commonly to assess trade-offs in alternative uses of water (Schluter et al. 2009; Rouquette et al. 2011; Liu et al. 2013). In this chapter we provide an overview of a case study into quantifying the ecosystem services and associated benefits (and their monetary values) of a new water-sharing plan that will return water to the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. This serves as an illustration of how to operationalize an ecosystem services-based approach, as defined in this book. Chapter 2 in this book emphasizes that there is a gap between the conceptualization and endorsement of ecosystem services by both researchers and policy makers and the incorporation of ecosystem services-based approaches into natural resources management practice. The present chapter demonstrates the operationalization of an ecosystem services-based approach in the context of water resource planning and management. We estimate the changes to a range of final ecosystem services (Boyd & Banzhaf 2007; Kumar 2010) that result from the implementation of a discrete policy scenario, and provide economic estimates for the associated benefits. Our work contributes to the still scarce literature on real-world examples of integrating empirical data on the biophysical supply of ecosystem services with their socio-cultural context and monetary valuation to inform investment decisions (Martín-Loópez et al. 2014; see also Mulligan et al., this book). The Murray-Darling Basin contains iconic and internationally important wetlands and is Australia’s major food-producing area. In terms of gross value, about 40% of Australia’s agriculture and 50% of irrigated agriculture is produced in the Basin (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). However, the dominance of food production has come at the expense of other ecosystem services provided by land and water resources in the Basin, primarily due to the decline in health of river, wetland, and floodplain ecosystems (Kingsford 2000; Kingsford et al. 2011).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWater Ecosystem Services
Subtitle of host publicationA Global Perspective
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781316178904
ISBN (Print)9781107100374
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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