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Evaluating ecosystem service trade offs with wind electricity production in Switzerland

Egli, T.
70 Seiten

Egli, T., 2015: Evaluating ecosystem service trade offs with wind electricity production in Switzerland. Master thesis. 70 p.


Egli, T. 2015: Evaluating ecosystem service trade offs with wind electricity production in Switzerland. Masterarbeit geleitet von Prof. Felix Kienast (WSL) und PD Dr. Janine Bolliger (WSL). D-USYS, ETH Zürich


The assessment, mapping, and evaluation of ecosystem services is an integral part of the systems oriented management of ecosystems. Developing methods to understand the relationship between our interference in the landscape and the delivery of these services will help society to better manage our impacts on the ecosystems that sustain us. To this end, spatial planning aims to balance activities that compete for space in the landscape. Incorporating the ecosystem service approach into planning and management requires an understanding of the effects that land use decisions will have on the environment.

In Switzerland, different types of land use, including electricity production, compete directly for little available space. By 2030, this small country hopes to produce around 5,4 TWh of its electricity using renewable sources, including wind. By the time nuclear reactors are phased out in 2050, the country will require 25 TWh (93% of demand) of renewable electricity. In order to ensure long term efficient, socially acceptable and sustainable electricity production in Switzerland, land-use conflicts should be addressed and properly managed through a comprehensive and balanced process.

This paper describes an optimisation model that was developed to better understand the relationship between wind electricity production and the delivery of ecosystem services in Switzerland. It was demonstrated that using the software Marxan, originally created to resolve conservation planning problems, can help to create spatially-explicit solutions for such complicated ecosystem service trade off issues. By expressing different ecosystem services in comparable units and evaluating the costs to the system when these are lost versus the benefits gained from wind electricity production, an output of possible solutions was generated. When compared to a similar study, the current results using Marxan suggest a solution requiring 25% less turbines in the whole of Switzerland to achieve the same electricity output. This shows that using optimisation software can lead to more efficient land use predictions.

The graphical outputs generated by an optimisation can also be interpreted in different ways to assess the potential impacts on different ecosystem services as well as to other possible real solutions to resolve conflict on various scales. Parameters can be modified to suit different scenarios and data scales and so allow for flexibility in the model. The quantification of trade offs between ecosystem services and abiotic outputs is a powerful tool to share scientific findings with decision makers so that better informed policy decisions can be made.