Enhancing understanding of ecosystem multifunctionality in mountain regions.

Published online
02 Oct 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Ecological Solutions and Evidence

Simion, H. & Giombini, V. & Tasser, E. & Marsoner, T. & Vigl, L. E.
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Mountain landscapes that are managed to provide several ecosystem services (ES) have the potential to sustain high levels of biodiversity while also meeting multiple human needs. The promotion of multifunctional landscapes has become an important policy target in land management and has gained research traction under the definition of ES-multifunctionality. However, scale dynamics and patterns of ES-multifunctionality remain poorly understood and are rarely integrated into land management and policy recommendations. To address this gap, we used two diversity indices to quantify ES-multifunctionality based on 11 ES indicators at different spatial scales in a case-study region in the European Alps. The approach used captures the diversity of ES provided at patch and landscape levels (α-multifunctionality) as well as unique ES contributions of ecosystems to the regional ES diversity (β-multifunctionality). Results show that ES-multifunctionality generally decreases from low to high land use intensities and increases from high to low elevations. While forest-dominated landscapes are hotspots of ES diversity, the more specialized ES supply in landscapes above the tree line and on valley floors enhances regional ES-multifunctionality. This study highlights how understanding ES-multifunctionality and its incorporation into policy and landscape management requires adopting a multi-scale approach. Patch-scale analyses are necessary to identify the environmental characteristics underpinning ES-multifunctionality with a fine level of detail. However, looking at the distribution of ES at landscape and regional scales uncovers the benefits originating from interacting ecosystems, and can support the identification of areas that should be protected, restored, or sustainably managed.

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