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Study by CORTICEIRA AMORIM and CE LIÈGE quantifies ecosystem services

Study by CORTICEIRA AMORIM and CE LIÈGE quantifies ecosystem services

Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services

Cork oak forest ecosystem services assessed at 100 €/year per hectare.

CORTICEIRA AMORIM and CE LIÈGE have published the results of a study which describes and assigns a value to the environmental services provided by cork oak forests. The focus of the study was Herdade da Machoqueira do Grou, a 2,423 hectare property with various soil uses, including around 1,000 hectares of cork oak forests. The project sought to identify the minimum value of the services provided by this cork oak forest area, and even without taking regulation of the water cycle into account, it concluded that the services provided by this ecosystem are worth at least 100 euros/year per hectare.

1. CHALLENGE

  • Characterise environmental services at an estate scale
  • Assess the environmental services of the cork oak forests at an estate scale
  • Enhance the economic value of the estate's environmental services

2. CONTEXT

Ecosystem services provided by the cork oak forest

The value of cork oak forests in the Mediterranean eco-region has been studied by numerous institutions and specialists. The studies presented at the "Services of the cork oak forest ecosystem" conference held as part of GreenFestival 2010 reinforced this idea with the presentation of two studies.

Besides the presentation of a report prepared by the WWF under the title "Biodiversity Hotspots and Ecosystem Services of Cork Oak Forests", identifying the services provided by this ecosystem on a regional scale, the results of a joint study by CORTICEIRA AMORIM and the European Cork Confederation - C. E. Liège were also presented.

3. APPROACH


With a view to describing and enhancing the value of cork oak forest ecosystem services on a local scale, a study was carried out by CORTICEIRA AMORIM and the European Cork Confederation - C. E. Liège. The study examined Herdade da Machoqueira do Grou, a 2,423 hectare property with various soil uses, including around 1,000 hectares of cork oak forests. In recent years, Herdade da Machoqueira do Grou has invested in the implementation of good management practices which in 2008 enabled it to obtain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of its forestry management system.

INNOVATIVE NATURE OF THIS STUDY

Description of environmental services at the scale of the estate.

  • Establishing causal relationships between
  • Agro-forestry management practices and ecosystem services.

Value enhancement of environmental services.

Four categories of services provided by the ecosystem and identified in the Final Report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment were examined. Subsequently, the services most relevant to an area with the size and characteristics of Herdade da Machoqueira do Grou were determined. From among these, "public goods", i.e. services which benefit the local community and society in general, and for which the owner receives no remuneration, were selected and assessed.

SERVICES EXAMINED

  • Supporting Services (e.g. the water cycle)
  • Provisioning Services (e.g. production of food and raw materials)
  • Regulating Services (e.g. pollination and erosion control)
  • Cultural Services (e.g. tourism and education)

4. RESULTS

The various services provided by cork oak forests on the scale of Herdade da Machoqueira do Grou, along with their main beneficiaries, were identified:

The results of the study highlight the fundamental role of cork oak forests in the different ecosystem services examined, in particular as compared to other soil uses. It also makes it possible to establish relationships between good forest management practices and the level of ecosystem services, thereby providing forest owners with a wide range of practical information on the effects of management practices on ecosystem services.

In terms of provisioning services the main benefits are to the forest owners (these services being classified as "private goodsfa"). The other services mostly benefit the local communities and society in general (known as "public goods").

The study opens the door for ecosystems services to begin to be remunerated, for example, via public funding, by identifying a practical set of assessment criteria and confirmation mechanisms which involve, above all, the improvement/adaptation of already existing systems, with forest management certification (from the FSC or PEFC, for example), and by suggesting methodologies for enhancing the value of the ecosystem services.

On the basis of this study of Herdade da Machoqueira do Grou, which evaluated the 1,000 hectares of cork oak forest contained within the property - and without taking into account the service "regulation of the water cycle" - it was concluded that the ecosystem services provided by this cork oak forest area are worth at least 100 euros/year per hectare, which in this case is equivalent to an overall amount of € 100,000.00 per year for the specific cork oak forest area.

It is hoped that the "minimum value" determined in this study will lead to additional efforts to reach the "most suitable" amount, according to which the owner can begin to be remunerated for these services. It is necessary for the value of the services provided by cork oak forests to cease to be a merely "theoretical" one, becoming instead an actual remuneration paid to forestry owners who, by means of good management practices, provide a significant set of services fundamental to human well-being.

The maintenance, preservation and value enhancement of this natural asset - the Cork Oak Forest - is of huge economic importance to the country, not just in terms of cork production, which ensures Portugal's leadership in the sector, but also of the social, economic and environmental value of the countless services provided.

Until we move from analysis and assessment to actual remuneration of these services, cork products will bear the burden of making this entire balance viable. This study clearly demonstrates the importance of cork products and their key role in ensuring the viability of the cork oak forest.