Do ecosystem services provide an added value compared to existing forest planning approaches in Central Europe?

Markus A. Meyer, Christoph Schulz

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19 Citations (Scopus)
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In forestry research, the concept of ecosystem services (ESS) is less prominent than in agricultural studies. One reason might be that multifunctional forestry and the concept of forest functions, i.e., societal demand from forest, are established and legally required planning approaches in Central Europe, e.g., in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. To explore differences in concept and perspective, we conducted a participatory stakeholder workshop to identify, score, and map ESS in an urban forest in Germany. For comparison, we used existing forest function maps. Forest function mapping as planning approach is based on a regional-scale expert assessment of forest agencies. The local ESS scoring showed a clear preference for recreation, drinking water, biodiversity, mediation of climate and water, and wood provision in decreasing order. Most stakeholder groups scored recreation highest. Drinking water was also important for most stakeholders. Recreation stakeholders scored unbalanced with an apparent focus on their own demand (Gini coefficient: 0.83). Contrastingly, forestry stakeholders scored the ESS in a balanced manner (Gini coefficient: 0.47). ESS and forest function maps highly overlapped. The stakeholders identified both synergies and trade-offs between timber and biodiversity and between drinking water and biodiversity depending on the management. Recreation has mostly trade-offs, with timber, hunting, and drinking water. The stakeholders mapped only few ESS in addition to forest functions, e.g., feed production, beekeeping, and biodiversity hotspots. Although forest functions consider most forest benefits despite weak stakeholder consultation, the opportunity to prioritize forest benefits and to analyze interactions is a clear added value of the ESS approach. The paradigm of simultaneous provision of all forest functions does not reflect heterogeneous societal preferences. The stakeholders showed a rather low level of conflict and a high level of understanding for differences in their prioritization. The reason might be the long local tradition of multiple-use forestry beginning in the late 1800s. The study area is an example for an urban forest of a larger city in Europe with high pressure from local recreation. It would be interesting to test the approach for other environmental conditions and locations of an urban forest. In general, the developed approach could be used to evaluate the quality of other planning instruments for multiple-use forestry worldwide regarding their consideration of stakeholder requirements and the potential added value of the ESS approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalEcology and society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecosystem services
  • Forest functions
  • Forestry
  • Participatory GIS
  • Preferences
  • Stakeholders


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