What can conservation strategies learn from the ecosystem services approach?

New research, co-authored by the Environmental Change Institute’s Dr Pam Berry, considers the extent to which ecosystem services have been implemented in conservation strategies in two of Spain’s national parks.

Photo: Sierra Nevada. Photo by Berta Martín-López.

A new paper shows the extent to which the ecosystem services approach has been applied in the conservation strategies of two important protected areas in Spain, the Doñana wetlands and the Sierra Nevada mountains. A series of workshops, face-to-face surveys with local stakeholders and a review of management plans revealed that the two national parks provide multiple ecosystem services, and that some of the most important services are declining and need further attention to ensure their sustained delivery. However, although management plans take some account of provisioning services such as crop and livestock production and cultural services such as eco-tourism, the regulating services such as maintenance of climate, soil, air and water quality are rarely mentioned. The work also revealed that environmental managers and researchers have different perceptions and priorities regarding ecosystem services management compared with ecosystem service users. Recognising that different stakeholders have different perceptions of ecosystem services can be an important step towards their co-management.

The study suggests that these challenges can be tackled by understanding protected areas not as isolated ‘islands’ aimed only at conservation but as interconnected social-ecological systems, in which both nature and humans depend on each other. Dr Pam Berry, one of the authors, says the study shows that “we need much greater effort to assess the connection between protected areas and human well-being, as this can help to reduce environmental conflicts in protected areas, strengthen social support for their management and increase the well-being of local people.”

Read the full paper online.



Photo: Flamingos in Doñana Wetlands. Photo by Berta Martín-López.

This article first appeared on the Environmental Change Institute website.

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