What can conservation strategies learn from the ecosystem services approach? Insights from ecosystem assessments in two Spanish protected areas.
In Biodiversity and Conservation
Abstract: Biodiversity conservation strategies that overlook the interests of local people are prone to create conflicts. The ecosystem service approach holds potential for more comprehensively integrating the social dimension into decision-making in protected areas, but its implementation in conservation policies is still in its infancy. This research assesses the extent to which ecosystem services have been implemented in conservation strategies in protected areas. The study was conducted in two outstanding Spanish protected areas, covering a wetland (Doñana Natural and National Parks) and a Mediterranean mountain system (Sierra Nevada Natural and National Parks). Data were collected from deliberative workshops with managers and researchers, face-to-face surveys with users and a review of management plans. We found that, beyond intrinsic values of ecosystems and biodiversity, these areas provide multiple ecosystem services that deserve further attention to ensure their sustained delivery. Our research shows that environmental managers and researchers have different perceptions and priorities regarding ecosystem services management compared with ecosystem service users. Environmental managers and researchers in both protected areas perceived that human-nature relationships and ecosystem services are already widely included in management plans, if often not explicitly. We found that different ecosystem service categories receive uneven attention in management plans. These contained measures to manage provisioning and cultural services whereas measures for managing regulating services were perceived to be largely absent. We conclude by summarizing insights on how the ecosystem service approach may enhance the consideration of social interests in the management of management protected areas.
Keywords: Deliberative workshop; Document analysis; Management plan; National Park; Natural Park Perception