What is the best method to value climate regulation or biodiversity maintenance of Sudoe’s region complex forests?

Image: Javier Lobón-Rovira

A report by the European project   COMFOR-SUDOE (COMplex FORests) led by the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) proposes a series of methods of monetary and non-monetary valuation of the benefits of complex forests for rural and urban societies in Spain, France and Portugal. This open access compendium has been elaborated by Ecoacsa Reserva de la Biodiversidad, one of the consortium partners, and aims to guide local development stakeholders and policy-makers in decision making processes. The report is accompanied by a list including 68 ecosystem services or benefits provided by complex forests.

"Complex forests are those in which several different species coexist or in which a single one predominates whose specimens are at different times of their development and there is a constant renewal of the species. These are forests with greater resilience to threats such as climate change or the biodiversity crisis that are also capable of providing more and better ecosystem services."

Andrés Bravo-Oviedo, researcher at MNCN-CSIC and coordinator of COMFOR-SUDOE project

Decision tree

An open access decision tree  decision tree has been developed along with the guide. 

"It is a tool that has been developed to support the work of policy makers and other actors involved in land management. The decision tree will guide them in selecting the method to economically assess the benefits of ecosystem services provided by complex forests. This is an essential information tool for better and more informed decisions aimed at promoting sustainable management."

"The great value of the multiple benefits that forests bring is often invisible from the economic point of view to the managers of the territory. Therefore, it is key that they have accessible and science-based tools that allow them to value the relevant role that forests play in local economy and social development".

David Álvarez García, executive director at Ecoacsa

Both open access documents are the result of a consultation of experts and an extensive bibliographic review of 84 scientific articles carried out in Spain, France and Portugal on natural assets (resources of nature that provide goods or services for a time, such as biomass or water) and forest ecosystem services (Carbon dioxide sequestration, erosion control, maintenance of biodiversity, supply of mushrooms and berries, regulation of water quality and climate). In addition, other experiences developed in Germany, Denmark, Scotland, the United States, Finland, England, Iran, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland and Switzerland have also been taken into account.

The results show that, of the 68 benefits or services provided by the region’s complex forest ecosystems, 29 are provision, 16 are cultural and 23 are regulation and maintenance. Depending on its suitability for each type of ecosystem service and the availability of data, each benefit has a more appropriate method for calculating its economic value, including those that estimate demand – for example, market prices, contingent value or choice experiment – and those that do not estimate demand – e.g. replacement cost, opportunity cost or avoided costs.

COMFOR SUDOE project

The objective of the European project   COMFOR-SUDOE  is to promote  these forest masses as resilient and adaptive alternatives to threats such  as global change and the decline of biodiversity.  

The project, which was launched in November 2020 and has a budget of 1.3 million euros funded by the  EuropeaRegional Development Fund (ERDF), seeks to promote synergies among Spain, France and Portugal and to strengthen a transnational research and innovation network in specific sectors within Sudoe. The objective consists of promoting sustainable and intelligent growth through boosting research, development, innovation and technological transfer. 

"Despite the enormous value of the goods and services provided by the mixed and irregular forests of the region and the fact that on many occasions the benefits of other simpler forest systems such as monospecific and regular areas increase and improve, we still do not know aspects of their dynamics that must be studied", contextualizes the Andrés Bravo-Oviedo. "For example, it is necessary to deepen their mitigation capacity and risk management, such as fire prevention, and how these can affect the socio-ecological stability of these systems."

Until 2023, the international consortium participating in the project will work in southwest Europe – Spain, Portugal and France – to promote forests that guarantee the supply of goods and services to rural and urban society, as well as the protection of their wealth. This strategy, funded by the EU’s Interreg Sudoe Programme, will help to promote ecosystem services and biodiversity protection, as well as to ensure sustainable management.

Download the guide for policy makers and land managers and the decision tree

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