Can landscape-scale approaches to conservation management resolve biodiversity-ecosystem service trade-offs?

Published online
03 Feb 2016
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Cordingley, J. E. & Newton, A. C. & Rose, R. J. & Clarke, R. T. & Bullock, J. M.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
UK & England


Conservation management is increasingly being required to support both the provision of ecosystem services and maintenance of biodiversity. However, trade-offs can occur between biodiversity and ecosystems services. We examine whether such trade-offs can be resolved through landscape-scale approaches to management. We analysed the biodiversity value and provision of selected ecosystem services (carbon storage, recreation, aesthetic and timber value) on patches of lowland heathland in the southern English county of Dorset. We used transition matrices of vegetation dynamics across 112 heathland patches to forecast biodiversity and ecosystem service provision on patches of different sizes over a 27-year timeline. Management scenarios simulated the removal of scrub and woodland and compared (i) no management (NM); (ii) all heaths managed equally (AM); and management focused on (iii) small heaths (SM) and (iv) large heaths (LM). Results highlighted a number of trade-offs. Whereas biodiversity values were significantly lower in woodland than in dry and humid heath, timber, carbon storage and aesthetic values were highest in woodland. While recreation value was positively related to dry heath area, it was negatively related to woodland area. Multicriteria analysis ranked NM highest for aesthetic value, carbon storage and timber value. In contrast, SM ranked highest for recreation and LM highest for biodiversity value. In no scenario did the current site-based approach to management (AM) rank highest. Synthesis and applications. Biodiversity-ecosystem service trade-offs are reported in lowland heathland, an ecosystem type of high conservation value. Trade-offs can be addressed through a landscape-scale approach to management, by varying interventions according to heathland patch size. Specifically, if management for biodiversity conservation is focused on larger patches, the aesthetic, carbon storage and timber value of smaller patches would increase, as a result of woody succession. In this way, individual heathland patches of either relatively high biodiversity value or high value for provision of ecosystem services could both potentially be delivered at the landscape scale.

Key words