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Spontaneous forest regrowth in South‐West Europe: Consequences for nature's contributions to people

Abstract : 1. European forests are expanding and becoming denser following the widespread abandonment of farmland and rural areas. Spontaneous forest regrowth provides a cost-effective opportunity to restore ecosystems, enhance multifunctionality and sustainability and mitigate climate change. Yet, little is known about the goods and services that such forests provide to people. We assessed the changes in nature's contributions to people (NCP) from spontaneous forest regrowth, i.e. forest expansion and densification, in South-West Europe. 2. We investigated 65 forest plots in four different landscapes with contrasting ecological and societal contexts. Two landscapes are located in rural areas undergoing human exodus and forest expansion and densification; the other two, in peri-urban areas with intense land use and forest densification but negligible expansion. For each forest plot, we estimated variables related to ten out of the 18 main NCP defined by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Regulating and material NCP were addressed using variables measured in the field as proxies. Non-material NCP were studied through stakeholder interviews. 3. Our results show across the cases that forest expansion and densification are generally associated with greater climate regulation and energy provision. Changes in other NCP, especially in non-material ones, were strongly context-dependent. The social perception of spontaneous forest regrowth was primarily negative in rural areas and more positive in peri-urban landscapes. 4. Passive restoration through spontaneous forest expansion and densification can enhance regulating and material NCP, especially when adaptive management is applied. To optimise NCP and to increase the societal awareness of and interest in spontaneous forest regrowth, the effects of this process should be analysed in close coordination with local stakeholders to unveil and quantify the many and complex trade-offs involved in rural or peri-urban social perceptions.
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Submitted on : Monday, July 12, 2021 - 11:51:50 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 3:58:33 AM

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Irene Martín‐forés, Sandra Magro, Andrés Bravo‐oviedo, Raquel Alfaro‐sánchez, Josep Espelta, et al.. Spontaneous forest regrowth in South‐West Europe: Consequences for nature's contributions to people. People and Nature, Wiley Open Access 2020, 2 (4), pp.980-994. ⟨10.1002/pan3.10161⟩. ⟨hal-03283946⟩

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