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Sources and types of uncertainties in the information on forest-related ecosystem services

Kangas, A., Korhonen, K.T., Packalen, T., Vauhkonen, J.
Forest ecology and management 2018 v.427 pp. 7-16
decision making, ecosystem services, forest management, forest policy, prediction, uncertainty
The concept of ecosystem services has gained importance in the forest management and forest policy processes in recent years. Ensuring the sustainable provision of ecosystem services requires accurate information of the current provision and methods for predicting the impact of important drivers, such as changes in land cover and land use. In this review, we define the sources of uncertainties in forest-related ecosystem service assessments and discuss their importance to the usability of the information for different purposes. The uncertainties are due to e.g. variation in the selected indicators for the ecosystem services, lack of primary information on them, poor correlation with the data used for mapping the ecosystem services to larger scale and for predicting the impacts of human interventions. The uncertainties can be random or non-random and their assessment is often ignored, especially in the case of the non-random errors. As a result, different assessments and subsequent decision recommendations can be highly conflicting. We do not expect that the accuracies would significantly improve in the short term. The best way to proceed is therefore to assess the uncertainties and take them into account in the decision making for forest management.