Ecosystem Services Need to Be Incorporated Into Forest Management

Session B-05A: The benefits of introducing the ecosystem service concept in forest management and planning at different spatial scales


The world’s forests are in a state of flux: land-use change, climate change, deforestation, afforestation, wildfires, pathogen outbreaks. In the face of both anthropogenic and natural forces, now more than ever, there is a need to assess the value of our forests.

The incorporation of the ecosystem service (ES) concept into the framework of forest management stems from a need to create a more holistic perception of forests, recognizing not only their economic value, but also their cultural and ecological values.

Forests provide ecological and cultural value that must be measured. Source: David Stephens,
Forests provide ecological and cultural value that must be measured. Source: David Stephens,

Sandra Luque opened the session with an overview of the ES concept and the idea of balancing trade-offs between different services to obtain multifunctional ecosystems. As a relatively new concept, there is still uncertainty regarding the best way to integrate ES into forest management. Luque concluded that some of the key factors for future assessments using the ES concept were a landscape approach, regionally tailored management, and avoidance of a single dominant management.

The ES concept has diverse applications in management practices. Susanne Frank and Christine Fürst have been using software called GISCAME that allows them to simulate different management scenarios over relatively long time scales. By inputting regional ES and indicators, along with other forest parameters, into the software, they are able to create an integrated ES assessment to model how forests will change over time in response to different management strategies. This provides a useful method with which to illustrate trade-offs and compare alternatives.

Other researchers have integrated the ES concept into studies at the “ground-level”, working with groups of stakeholders from different backgrounds to determine which ecosystem services they value most. Per Angelstam studies the perceived benefits from boreal landscapes in Scotland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. He and his colleagues spoke with focus groups in each country and found that the role of different ecosystem services were proportionally different across the study regions. For example, there was a greater importance placed on provisioning ecosystem services in Russia, while the other countries ranked cultural ecosystem services relatively higher.

Mark Johnston provided examples of additional case studies focused on facilitating discussion among local partners in making management decisions. Johnston discussed the Model Forest Network, which includes about 60 model forests worldwide. The goal of this network is to combine the diverse social, economic, and cultural needs of local communities into long-term sustainable forest management plans. The model forests themselves do not have jurisdiction over the lands, but rather, they provide a framework through which partner-based discussions of local issues can occur.

Johnston and Angelstam both spoke of the need for an improved understanding between diverse groups of stakeholders in integrating the ES concept. The Model Forest Concept helps to dissolve some of those barriers.

While the ES concept is relatively new, its use in research to date has shown that it is a useful, and ultimately necessary, component of forest management plans. Ecosystem services can be challenging to quantify because many of them do not translate easily to a monetary value. However, if these are not all taken into account, we risk losing many of the other benefits that forests provide.


Written by: Allison Chan

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