September 26, 2012

Motivating Management for Ecosystem Services

Tobias Plieninger, University of Copenhagen

The Landscapes Blog has been focusing attention on biodiversity this month and in the lead-up to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October. Dr. Tobias Plieninger, Head of the Ecosystem Services Research Group at the Berlin-Brandenberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Germany, rejoins the Landscapes Blog to report on a recent article on landowner motivations to manage for ecosystem services in working forest and grazing landscapes in California.

In North America, the concept of “working landscapes’’ is increasingly being used to foster effective land stewardship and conservation through active human presence and management. “Working landscapes” combine livestock, crop, and timber production with the provision of a broad range of ecosystem services, in particular on privately owned lands. In a recent study published in Environmental Management, researchers from the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany and the University of California, Berkeley employed a statewide survey to explore the differences in the appreciation and management of biodiversity and ecosystem services between different types of private landowners of “working” forests and rangelands in California.

Photos: Lynn Huntsinger

The authors investigated whether owners who are engaged in commercial livestock or timber production appreciate and manage biodiversity and ecosystem services on their land in different ways than purely residential owners. Both specific uses and management practices, as well as underlying attitudes and motivations toward biodiversity and ecosystem services, were assessed. The analysis shows two closely correlated bundles of biodiversity and ecosystem services: producers attached significantly more importance to timber and livestock production whereas residential owners were more likely to ally with the bundle of biodiversity and ecosystem services comprising recreation, hunting/fishing, wildlife habitat, and fire prevention. The survey further confirms that cultural ecosystem services and quality-of-life aspects are among the primary amenities that motivate forest and rangeland ownership regardless of ownership type. To live near natural beauty was the most important motive for both landowner groups.

The findings also show that producers are significantly more engaged in management for habitat improvements and other environmental goals than residential owners. The present decrease in number of production-oriented owners in California may consequently imply less management for biodiversity and ecosystem services in the future. In this context, the authors stress that “the idea that ‘hands off’ management will conserve native biodiversity is severely outdated”. One factor contributing to the current decline of production-oriented owners is the fact that they are often not acknowledged by society as principal stewards of working forests and rangelands, despite performing on-the-ground management of biodiversity and ecosystem services. More positive feedback could thus help encourage additional management efforts. Besides, the study suggests greater use of “conservation development” approaches to encourage residential owners and developers to more active management of their land. These approaches allow for a limited development of the land while at the same time protecting certain environmental features.

Read more: Plieninger, T., S. Ferranto,  L. Huntsinger, M. Kelly & C. Getz. 2012. Appreciation, Use, and Management of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in California’s Working LandscapesEnvironmental Management, doi: 10.1007/s00267-012-9900-z.

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