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Evaluating Goal Programming as a Backcasting Tool to Assess the Impact of Local Stakeholder Determined Policies on the Future Provision of Ecosystem Services in Forested Landscapes

Corrigan, Edwin, Nieuwenhuis, Maarten
Forests 2019 v.10 no.5
case studies, data collection, ecosystem services, forests, genetic improvement, issues and policy, land use, landscapes, models, peatlands, planning, recreation, risk, stakeholders, sustainable forestry, timber production, trees, Ireland
Forest management in Ireland has traditionally focused on timber production and policies have been implemented with this in mind. Since the mid-1990s, the focus is transitioning from timber production to a more multifunctional forest management approach following the principles of sustainable forest management. A method known as “backcasting” has the potential to include local stakeholders into land-use and policy planning. Two case study areas were chosen to investigate the potential of backcasting for integrated forest landscape planning in Ireland: Western Peatlands and Newmarket. Potential beneficial policies produced by local stakeholders in participatory workshops were assessed for robustness using a goal programming model and the resulting changes in forest management and ecosystem service provisions were analysed. While each evaluated backcasting policy increased the provision of that policy’s targeted ecosystem service(s), it was at a cost to some others. The widening of buffer zones did reduce the landscape level risk to water sedimentation and the policy to enhance each landscape’s recreation potential did the intended. However, both policies reduced the amount of timber produced for most potential futures. The option of using genetically improved tree species showed potential to mitigate the effect of these policies on timber production. We present this study as a useful reference point toward evaluating the efficacy of a range of potentially implementable scenarios in Ireland. We believe the backcasting approach has promise for future use in other landscapes, given the success of this approach in our study. Given that much of the information required to model the ecosystem services was extracted from scientific research and datasets from outside of Ireland, the approach may well be useful for others seeking to do similar outside of Ireland.