Assessing the distribution of forest ecosystem services in a highly populated Mediterranean region

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Roces-Díaz, José V.
Vayreda, Jordi
Banqué-Casanovas, Mireia
Cusó, Martí
Anton, Marc
Bonet Lledos, José AntonioBonet Lledos, José Antonio - ORCID ID
Brotons, Lluís
De Cáceres, Miquel
Herrando, Sergi
Martínez de Aragón, Juan
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Forest ecosystems provide a wide range of goods and services to society and host high levels of biodiversity. Nevertheless, forest ecosystem services (ES) are often quantified and assessed using simplified methodologies (e.g., proxy methods based exclusively on Land Use Land Cover maps) that introduce substantial uncertainty in the analysis by ignoring, for instance, the species composition and spatial configuration of the ecosystems studied. In this work we defined and calculated a set of 12 indicators of several ES for the forests of the highly populated region of Catalonia (North-eastern Iberian Peninsula). The indicators combined different sources of information such as forest surveys, ecological model predictions and official statistics, but also included additional land cover information. All ES indicators were aggregated at the municipality level to compare their values and distribution patterns. We assessed spatial trade-offs and synergies among ES, as well as their relationships with a set of socioeconomic, climatic and biodiversity variables using correlation analyses and mixed-effects models. The results suggest a clustering of provisioning and regulating ES in mountainous zones towards the North of the study area. These two types of services showed a high degree of spatial similarity and presented high positive correlations. In contrast, cultural ES showed a more scattered pattern, which included lower elevation areas in the South of the study region. Climatic conditions were the main determinants of the spatial variability in the supply of the different ES, with most indicators being positively associated with precipitation and negatively associated with temperature. In addition, biodiversity (particularly woody species richness) showed positive relations with most of these ES, while socioeconomic variables (such as population density and the percentage employment in agriculture) showed negative associations with most of them. The combination of information from different data sources (including primary data) allowed for a detailed analysis of forest ES, likely removing some of the problems derived from approaches based only on proxy methods. In addition, the use of municipalities as study unit makes results directly relevant to management and planning strategies operating at this scale (e.g., forest management and planning).
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Ecological Indicators, 2018, vol. 93, p. 986-997