Recently someone sent me a special issue about Ecosystem Services of the EU DG environment
When starting to read this leaflet I began to realize the difficulties of Central European Foresters (CEF) in understanding why the rest of the (biology/ecology/forestry) world is going to have endless discussions on how to differ between biodiversity and ecosystem services when applying forest management.
In the leaflet three studies where cited to come up with “surprising, groundbreaking” news on interactions of biodiversity, ecosystem services and forests (sorry for being this sarcastic)
- Goldman, R.L. & Tallis, H. (2009). A Critical Analysis of Ecosystem Services as a Tool in Conservation Projects: The Possible Perils, the Promises, and the Partnerships. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1162 (The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology, 2009): 63-78
- Rey Benayas, J.M., Newton, A.C., Diaz, A. & Bullock, J.M. (2009). Enhancement of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by Ecological Restoration: A Meta-Analysis. Science. 28(325): 1121-1124
- Stickler, C.M., Nepstad, D.C., Coe, M.T. et al. (2009). The potential ecological costs and co benefits of REDD: a critical review and case study from the Amazon region. Global Change Biology. 15:2803-2824
The first study compared conservation projects that focus on promoting only biodiversity with projects that focus on promoting both biodiversity and ecosystem services and is based on an analysis of more than 50 projects of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest conservation organization. The second study explored the relationship between ecosystem services and biodiversity and is bases on a research which examined 89 subsequent studies. The third study explored the influence of actions to reduce emissions caused by deforestation and degradation (REDD+) on ecosystem services carried out in the Xingu basin, an area of rainforest and dry tropical woodland known as cerrado in the southern Brazilian Amazon.
Unsurprisingly (for CEFs) all these studies concluded:
- ecosystem service projects produce additional benefits compared with biodiversity projects
- biodiversity improvements and greater provision of ecosystem services are complementary
- projects that restored ecosystems indicated that restoration produced a 44 per cent increase in biodiversity and a 25 per cent increase in the provision of ecosystem services
- Actions to reduce emissions caused by deforestation and degradation (REDD+) also enhance ecosystem services
All these results can be called to be of common and general sense to every CEF since centuries. This is what a CEF is learning in his first days being under forestry education. The first lessons they used to learn is to understand that forests are complex ecosystems providing a wide variety of services.
To sustain wood production, water purification and storage, nutrient cycling, soil and natural hazard protection, recreation provision, wildlife management and protection, to name but a few, is an integrated part of every sustainable forest management action and therefore a matter of course to every CEF. It is common sense to them to understand biodiversity as a kind of ecosystem services.
Furthermore every conservation project established in Central Europe is seen and communicated as an integrated project to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. The type, extend and number of ecosystem services provided by these conservation projects might differ from project to project, but it doesn’t even occur to a CEF to distinguish conservation from ecosystem service provision.
Same situation is with actions of sustainable forest management. Any action set by sustainable forest management (clear cutting, road construction, Afforestation, low impact logging, thinning, inventory and planning,…) balances timber yield with any other type of ecosystem services (of which biodiversity is one of).
The misunderstanding comes up, when people from outside Central Europe start to discuss reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) with CEF. As CEF are conditioned to understand forests as ecosystems, it doesn’t even occur to them to split ecosystem services from biodiversity. This is why any CEF would generally expect to improve ecosystem services and biodiversity when starting to combat deforestation by applying sustainable forest management actions.
On the other hand, CEFs always would consider any side effects which possibly could harm the forest ecosystem before applying specific forest management actions. E.g. any forest road undergoes a comprehensive environmental impact analyses before being built; site species matching is a mandatory part of any re/afforestation task, any logging activity is carefully planned by marking the extraction lines; any tree to be felled will be carefully selected and marked prior to any felling activites,…
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – not a new finding for CEFs – but quite new to international biology/ecology/forest people…
Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity of Forests - intrinsically bound toegether and to REDD+