Nature's contributions to people provided by spontaneous forest regrowth.
This paper assessed the changes in nature's contributions to people (NCP) associated with spontaneous forest regrowth, including both forest expansion and densification processes, in four South-West European landscapes from two different socio-ecological contexts. Spontaneous forest regrowth implied greater climate regulation and energy provision, while its role for non-material contributions was strongly context-dependent. The social perception of spontaneous forest regrowth was primarily negative in rural areas and more positive in peri-urban landscapes. Different social perceptions of competing land uses need to be carefully addressed in order to enhance forest multifunctionality and sustainability. In this sense, adaptive management practices integrating local knowledge and perceptions could optimise the contributions provided from naturally regrowing forest to society, especially in rural populations where traditional farming activities are considered an important part of their heritage. Properly integrated with other needs, spontaneous forest regrowth offers an opportunity to restore ecosystem functioning and to increase Nature's contributions to people, while helping to achieve environmental policy goals.