Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Valuing ecosystem services… or the economy of forest recovery after fire

In recent times there is an increasing recognition of the importance of ecosystem services founded on ecological processes to society.

Carol Puerta-Piñero of the ECO-LAND lab has lead an article in the European Journal of Forest Research addressing the economic value of ecological processes behind resilience after fire related to post-fire forest resilience.

Our study suggests that the economic costs of losing ecological processes ensuring post-fire resilience are high. A change in paradigm that favours complementing active management with actions and strategies aimed at maintaining ecosystem services provided by functional and diverse forests is needed.
Ecological processes within forests provide vital ecosystem services to society, most of which depend on the persistence of tree cover that can be altered after the impact of a disturbance. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of seed dispersal and resprouting that mediate resilience to large fires and evaluate the economic costs that these ecological functions provide.
We used field data of the Spanish National Forest Inventory providing information on pre- and post-fire conditions of Mediterranean Pinus spp. and Quercus forests. Then, we determined the need for restoration required and estimated the minimum pre-fire densities needed to ensure adequate post-fire cover. Economic valuations were assessed through three different scenarios of possible human-management actions aimed at ensuring proper post-fire tree cover:
1) a pre-fire management scenario evaluating the costs of planting Quercus seedlings in the understory, mimicking dispersal processes.
2) a pre-fire scenario in which enrichment plantations increase densities of natural oaks.
3) a post-fire scenario where the restoration is done through planting pines within the burned area.
Approximately 90% of the burned area was able to recover after fire supporting the view that Mediterranean forests are resilient to fire. This resilience was primarily mediated by biotic seed dispersal and posterior resprouting of tree species. These ecological functions saved between 626 and 1,326 €/ha compared to the costs of carrying out active management actions. Ensuring key ecological processes within forests increases forest resilience and recovery after fire leading to a generally significant saving of economic resources. In a perspective of increased future impact of disturbances and decrease availability of economic resources for forest management, the implications of the present study can be far reaching and extended to other forest planning exercises.
Valuació dels serveis ecosistèmics…. o l’economis de la recuperació forestal després del foc
En els darrers temps existeix un reconeixement creixent de la importància per la societat dels serveis ecosistèmics basats en procesos ecològics.
Carol Puerta-Piñero de ECO-LAND ha liderat un article publicat al European Journal of Forest Research que tracta la quantificació del valor econòmic dels procesos ecològics en el que es fonamenta la resiliencia del bosc després dels incendis. El nostre estudi suggereix que els costos econòmics relacionats amb la pèrdua de procesos ecològics que asseguren la resiliencia post-incendi poden ser molt alts.
Cal un canvi en el paradigma que afavoreixi la complementació de la gestió activa amb accions i estratègies encaminades al manteniment dels serveis ecosistemics proporcionats per boscos diversos i funcionals.


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