Spontaneous forest regrowth in South‐West Europe: Consequences for nature's contributions to people


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European forests are expanding and becoming denser following the widespread abandonment of farmland and rural areas. Spontaneous forest regrowth provides a cost‐effective opportunity to restore ecosystems, enhance multifunctionality and sustainability and mitigate climate change. Yet, little is known about the goods and services that such forests provide to people. In this study, the authors assessed the changes in nature's contributions to people (NCP) from spontaneous forest regrowth, i.e. forest expansion and densification, in South‐West Europe.

Researchers investigated 65 forest plots in four different landscapes with contrasting ecological and societal contexts. Two landscapes are located in rural areas undergoing human exodus and forest expansion and densification; the other two, in peri‐urban areas with intense land use and forest densification but negligible expansion. The study results show across the cases that forest expansion and densification are generally associated with greater climate regulation and energy provision. Changes in other NCP, especially in non‐material ones, were strongly context‐dependent. The social perception of spontaneous forest regrowth was primarily negative in rural areas and more positive in peri‐urban landscapes.

 

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Martín‐Forés, I., Magro, S., Bravo‐Oviedo, A., Alfaro‐Sánchez, R., Espelta, J. M., Frei, T., Valdés-Correcher, E., Rodríguez Fernández-Blanco, C., Winkel, G., Gerzabek, G., Hampe, A., Valladares, F. & González‐Martínez, S. C. 2020. Spontaneous forest regrowth in South‐West Europe: Consequences for nature's contributions to people. People and Nature. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10161