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Designing a network of green infrastructure to enhance the conservation value of protected areas and maintain ecosystem services

Lanzas, Mónica, Hermoso, Virgilio, de-Miguel, Sergio, Bota, Gerard, Brotons, Lluis
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.651 pp. 541-550
European Union, biodiversity, computer software, conservation areas, decision making, ecosystem services, green infrastructure, issues and policy, landscapes, mixing, planning, Spain
There is a growing demand for holistic landscape planning to enhance sustainable use of ecosystem services (ESS) and maintenance of the biodiversity that supports them. In this context, the EU is developing policy to regulate the maintenance of ESS and enhance connectivity among protected areas (PAs). This is known as the network of Green Infrastructure (GI). However, there is not a working framework defined to plan the spatial design of such network of GI.Here, we use the software Marxan with Zones, to prioritize the spatial distribution of different management zones that accommodate the needs of a network of GI. These zones included a conservation zone, mainly devoted to protecting biodiversity, a GI zone, that aimed at connecting PAs and maintaining regulating and cultural ESS; and a management zone devoted to exploiting provisioning ESS. We performed four planning scenarios that distribute the targets for ESS and biodiversity in different ways across management zones. We also conducted a sensitivity analysis by increasing ESS targets to explore trade-offs that may occur when managing together biodiversity and ESS. We use Catalonia (northeastern Spain) as a case study.We found that the representation of ESS could be achieved for intermediate targets in all scenarios. There was, however, a threshold on these targets over which trade-offs appeared between maintaining regulating and cultural ESS and biodiversity versus getting access to provisioning ESS. These “thresholds values” were displaced towards higher ESS targets when we moved from more strict to more flexible planning scenarios (i.e., scenarios that allowed mixing representation of objectives for biodiversity and ESS within the same zone).This methodological approach could help design a framework to integrate biodiversity and ESS management in holistic plans and decision making and, at the same time, meeting European mandates concerning the design of GI networks, or similar needs elsewhere.