Historical influences on the current provision of multiple ecosystem services

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Dallimer, M ; Davies, ZG ; Diaz-Porras, DF ; Irvine, KN ; Maltby, L ; Warren, PH ; Armsworth, PR ; Gaston, KJ (2015)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Journal: Global Environmental Change, volume 31, pages 307-317 (issn: 0959-3780)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.01.015
  • Subject: QH75 | Ecology | Global and Planetary Change | Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law | Geography, Planning and Development

Ecosystem service provision varies temporally in response to natural and human-induced factors, yet research in this field is dominated by analyses that ignore the time-lags and feedbacks that occur within socio-ecological systems. The implications of this have been unstudied, but are central to understanding how service delivery will alter due to future land-use/cover change. Urban areas are expanding faster than any other land-use, making cities ideal study systems for examining such legacy effects. We assess the extent to which present-day provision of a suite of eight ecosystem services, quantified using field-gathered data, is explained by current and historical (stretching back 150 years) landcover. Five services (above-ground carbon density, recreational use, bird species richness, bird density, and a metric of recreation experience quality (continuity with the past) were more strongly determined by past landcover. Time-lags ranged from 20 (bird species richness and density) to over 100 years (above-ground carbon density). Historical landcover, therefore, can have a strong influence on current service provision. By ignoring such time-lags, we risk drawing incorrect conclusions regarding how the distribution and quality of some ecosystem services may alter in response to land-use/cover change. Although such a finding adds to the complexity of predicting future scenarios, ecologists may find that they can link the biodiversity conservation agenda to the preservation of cultural heritage, and that certain courses of action provide win-win outcomes across multiple environmental and cultural goods.
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