Research Article

 

Criteria and indicators for sustainable forestry under Mediterranean conditions applicable in Spain at the forest management unit scale

 

Pablo Valls-Donderis

Departamento de Ingeniería Rural y Agroalimentaria (DIRA), Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). Camino de Vera s/n. 46021, Valencia (Spain)

María C. Vallés

Departamento de Ingeniería Rural y Agroalimentaria (DIRA), Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). Camino de Vera s/n. 46021, Valencia (Spain)

Francisco Galiana

Departamento de Ingeniería Rural y Agroalimentaria (DIRA), Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV). Camino de Vera s/n. 46021, Valencia (Spain)

 

Abstract

Aim of study: to identify criteria and indicators (C&I) of sustainable forest management (SFM) under Mediterranean conditions. The indicators are meant to monitor changes in the provision of ecosystem services at a local scale (forest management unit, FMU). We support that if a forest provides a bundle of ecosystem services its management can be considered sustainable; thus, we adjust C&I to an ecosystem services classification.

Area of study: La Hunde y La Palomera, a public FMU in the region of Valencia (east of Spain), 100km southwest of the city of Valencia.

Material and methods: first, a literature review of the following themes took part: SFM, features of Mediterranean forests, ecosystem services and C&I. Some C&I were proposed and, later on, a participatory process in Ayora, the municipality where the mentioned FMU is located, was carried out with different stakeholders (forestry professionals, users for recreation, hunters, environmentalists and professionals of cultural and rural development activities) in order for them to value the C&I proposed according to their management preferences for La Hunde y La Palomera.

Research highlights:

  1. 15 criteria and 133 indicators were identified: a balance has been achieved among economic, social and ecological concerns.
  2. People value the ecological issues associated to forestry on top and the economic ones at the bottom.
  3. Results suggest that SFM under Mediterranean conditions is based on more than one product and on the provision of several ecosystem services.

Keywords: Sustainable forest management; ecosystem services; local scale; literature review; participation.

Citation: Valls-Donderis, P., Vallés, M.C., Galiana, F. (2015). Criteria and indicators for sustainable forestry under Mediterranean conditions applicable in Spain at the forest management unit scale. Forest Systems, Volume 24, Issue 1, e004, 21 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.5424/fs/2015241-05542.

Received: 01 Jan 2014. Accepted: 02 Dec 2014

http://dx.doi.org/10.5424/fs/2015241-05542

This work has three Supplementary Files.

Copyright © 2015 INIA. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC by 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: The Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness supports the project Multicriteria Techniques and Participatory Decision-Making for Sustainable Management (Ref. ECO2011-27369) and the Regional Council of Education, Culture and Sports (Valencia, Spain) finances a research fellowship (Ref. ACIF/2010/248).

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Correspondence should be addressed to Pablo Valls-Donderis: pabvaldo@etsia.upv.es


 

CONTENTS

Abstract

Introduction

Material and methods

Results

Discussion

Conclusions

Notes

References

IntroductionTop

The concept of sustainable forest management (SFM) was first used at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro (UNCED, 1992) in reference to a type of management that considers social and environmental values of forests and other products apart from wood (Wijewardana, 2008). However, there is not a universal definition of SFM (Varma et al., 2000); the relative importance of the different aspects that SFM covers varies depending on the natural and anthropogenic influences on each type of forest (Castañeda, 2000; Barbati et al., 2007). Criteria and indicators (C&I) constitute a tool to spread an understanding of SFM: they provide the means to translate sustainability principles into measurable goals and achievements (Wijewardana, 2008).

Monitoring and evaluation processes through C&I depend a lot on the subjectivity of the one who carries out the evaluation, its experience, values and interests. To overcome this weakness of existing C&I standards[1], Pokorny & Adams (2003) suggest that the meaning of C&I has to be clear, which means that their writing should be simple, understandable and specific.

There is general agreement that international C&I standards cover the following thematic areas: (1) area of forest resources, (2) biodiversity conservation, (3) forest health and vitality, (4) and (5) productive and protective functions of forests, (6) social functions, and (7) legal, political and institutional framework (FAO, 2006). They are particularly weak in the social and cultural areas. This fact likely reflects the strong emphasis that forestry has traditionally placed on natural sciences and a perceived division over responsibility for the social elements of SFM (Gough et al., 2008).

Context

As aforementioned, the literature on SFM suggests that its objectives and strategies change depending on the type of forest; this fact is especially relevant under Mediterranean conditions, which have to be in mind to evaluate forestry practices (Osem et al., 2008). These conditions have been summarised by Scarascia-Mugnozza et al. (2000), Fabbio et al. (2003) and Madrigal (2003), as follows (Valls et al. 2012):

Adaptation to a specific climate: a pronounced biseasonality with dry and hot summers, occasional heavy rains, a large year-to-year variability of total precipitation and strong winds that favour the spread of forest fires.

Species richness: the presence of a high diversity of plant and animal species, the Mediterranean area harbors around 25000 plant species whereas in the rest of Europe around 6000 plant species can be found. 50% of the Mediterranean flora is endemic.

Anthropogenic influence: the diversity of vegetation types, land-uses and landforms, results in a landscape that consists of a mosaic of patches. This is the result of a very long history of human occupation and overlaying of new elements without elimination of the old ones.

Fragility: due to heterogeneity, instability and low profitability. Heterogeneity is caused by diversity of species and habitat conditions (climate, soils). Instability results from summer drought, heavy rains, poor soils, and forest fires. Low profitability is derived from low productivity of Mediterranean forests.

These forests provide a diversity of goods and services, all of them known as ecosystem services (MA, 2005). The goods include edible products (fungus, pine nuts and other fruits), resins, cork or aromatic plants (rosemary). Forests in this region also provide ecological and social services, like protecting soil from erosion, keeping and improving the visual aspect of landscapes and serving as spaces for recreation (Scarascia-Mugnozza et al., 2000). These services are essential for rural development and for the well-being of urban populations (EFI, 2010).

Spain constitutes a case where Mediterranean conditions take place in most of the forests. Besides the features mentioned, forestry in this country presents some peculiarities which are described next:

Decentralization: regional governments have the authority in forest regulation (MMA, 1999). The decentralized model allows for adapted forest policies, but results in an uneven development in terms of budget, schedule and so on (MARM, 2008).

Property structure: most of the forest area is private (65%) and the forest management units (FMUs) are on the average small-sized (less than 3ha). This discourages many land owners to manage their land as they cannot harvest regularly (Tolosana et al., 2004).

Socio-economic conditions: there has been a depopulation of rural areas a few decades ago, so that the management of much land including forest has been abandoned (Marraco, 2004). The main forest product is timber, which together with firewood accounts for a 47.1% of the total forest production in Spain (Tolosana et al., 2004). Most of the timber produced goes to low added value industries like packing cases (Plana & Meya, 1999). Besides, the average price of one m3 of wood in Spain to be paid to the forest owner in the year 2005 was of 46.49€, which is very low for a small property (MARM, 2010).

This research develops a case study in the region of Valencia (east of Spain). For this region a forestry plan has been elaborated: Plan de Acción Territorial Forestal de la Comunitat Valenciana (PATFOR). This plan proposes a forest management that stems from ecosystem services. Nowadays, most of the ecosystem services provided by Mediterranean forests do not result in any incomes to the forest owners. Besides, PATFOR states that the forests of this region go through an economic, social and environmental crisis. The economic crisis derives from the low productivity of these ecosystems. The ecological and the social crisis are connected: the abandonment of forest management increases the density of vegetation favouring the spread of forest fires. The social crisis is also affected by a lack of organisation among the forest actors, bad communication with the society, and conflicting interests between forest owners and users (Generalitat Valenciana, 2011a).

The low productivity and the abandonment of forest lands represent a danger for the continuity in the provision of ecosystem services. It becomes then necessary to identify and define C&I for SFM that take into account ecosystem services together with their economic valuation (Generalitat Valenciana, 2011a).

Another pillar over which PATFOR builds forest management is the inclusion of participatory processes for decision making. This is to make the forest sector closer to people, to achieve a common vision among stakeholders and to share responsibility with society (Generalitat Valenciana, 2011a).

Aim and Objectives

The aim of this research is to answer this research question: “what has to be considered for SFM under Mediterranean conditions?” The specific objectives of this research are:

  1. To identify C&I of SFM for Mediterranean forests, applicable at the scale of FMU and adapted to an ecosystem services framework, under the hypothesis that if forestry is oriented to maintain and improve the provision of ecosystem services it can be considered sustainable.
  2. To test the realism and comprehensiveness of the issues covered by the C&I identified by means of a participatory process.

Material and methodsTop

In order to adapt a typology of ecosystem services to Mediterranean conditions, different studies proposing them were revised. The inputs came mainly from the Common International Classification on Ecosystem Services (CICES) document (UN, 2010) and PATFOR (Generalitat Valenciana, 2011a). The first of them is a proposal of a United Nations expert committee. PATFOR adapts other existing frameworks to Mediterranean forests. Tables 1, 2 and 3 constitute a classification with examples of ecosystem services, and the references consulted. Then, to identify forestry criteria that maintain and improve their provision, those examples and kinds of the classification whose supply was considered that could be improved through management actions[2] were transformed into criteria (Table 4).

Table 1. Provisioning ecosystem services: this category corresponds to tangible benefits that people get from forests with either material purposes (food, construction or decoration) or energetic. This table shows the sources where the ecosystem services kinds and examples are taken or inspired from. The ecosystem services examples that are relevant in Mediterranean forests are underlined


Table 2. Regulating ecosystem services: this category refers to different ecosystem processes that are relevant for life itself and for humankind. This table shows the sources where the ecosystem services kinds and examples are taken or inspired from. The ecosystem services examples that are relevant in Mediterranean forests are underlined.


Table 3. Cultural ecosystem services: this category includes psychological benefits (tranquility, reflection, isolation) and social benefits (group activities, maintenance and improvement of cultural heritage, promotion of science and education). They are difficult to measure and subjective in many cases. This table shows the sources where the ecosystem services kinds and examples are taken or inspired from. The ecosystem services examples that are relevant in Mediterranean forests are underlined


Table 4. Criteria of SFM identified in this research as a result of the association of management actions to the different classes, groups, types and examples of ecosystem services that appear in the classification adapted for this research. Notice that all of the economic criteria are associated to the provisioning services category. The rest of the criteria are associated to specific ecosystem services kinds and examples.


It was considered that the provisioning services category could be associated to the economic pillar of sustainable development, the regulating one to the ecological pillar and the cultural category to social issues. The criteria were classified in three groups: economic, social and ecological, according to the ecosystem services categories. The criteria are indicated next:

  1. Economic criteria: persistence and stability of forest resources, profitability of forest resources, diversified exploitation of forests.
  2. Social criteria: employment and working conditions, recreation, visual character, historical and cultural heritage, participatory processes, education, research.
  3. Ecological criteria: biodiversity and habitats, hydrological regulation, mass flows, forest fires, carbon storage.

It can be seen in Table 4 that the criteria employment and working conditions and participatory processes have not been associated to any ecosystem service kind or example. This is because they constitute requirements of forest management and thus have to be included as criteria, even though they do not maintain or improve the provision of any ecosystem service. On the other hand, no criteria have been associated to the following ecosystem services kinds:

  1. Service group air flow regulation.
  2. Service group noise pollution reduction.
  3. Service group air quality regulation.
  4. Service type regional and local climate.
  5. Service group water quality regulation.
  6. Service group nutrient cycling.
  7. Service type fishing.

The reason for not including them is because they happen either in specific situations or as a result of the management for providing other ecosystem services. The first situation corresponds to noise pollution reduction, air quality regulation and fishing. The first two services are relevant for humans in forest that are close to urban and industrial areas; fishing takes place in forests located next to a river, and the management of fish populations is a competence of the Central Government (Gobierno de España, 2001). Air flow regulation, water quality regulation and nutrient cycling occur in forests where vegetation and soils are kept in good conditions; these conditions are taken into account in other criteria, therefore, there is no need to consider them explicitly.

Further references and legislation were revised for describing and explaining the criteria (Table 5). Later on, some forest management experts were consulted about the criteria and their descriptions. They were both invited to participate and explained what the research was about and which the objectives of the consultation were. Attached to the e-mail via which they were contacted, a file with the criteria was sent so that they were able to correct and comment on them. A total of 4 experts participated: 2 university academics and 2 civil servants. They were asked the following questions:

  1. Do these criteria cover the relevant issues of SFM in the Mediterranean region at the FMU level?
  2. Are these criteria applicable?
  3. Rephrase or comment on the writing of the criteria and their definitions if you think they could be improved.

Table 5. Description of the criteria identified and references consulted (1) for the identification.


Next, to identify indicators of SFM, existing international C&I standards were revised: ATO/ITTO, 2003; UNDP/FAO/SADC, 1999; Montréal Process, 2007; ITTO, 2005; FAO, 1999; FAO, 1997; International Expert Meeting on Monitoring, Assessment and Reporting on the Progress towards Sustainable Forest Management, 2001; Kotwal et al., 2008; SFI, 2010; GTC-FSC, 2007; AENOR, 2007a; AENOR, 2007b. Other studies that propose C&I were also consulted (Table 7).

All the indicators taken from the review were classified according to the criteria identified. After this, indicators were rephrased to be simple and easily understandable, as recommended by Pokorny & Adams (2003). The last task consisted of proposing new indicators in the issues for which less attention had been paid in the literature.

Later on, a participatory process in Ayora, a village located 100km southwest from the city of Valencia, was carried out. Its objective was to test if the topics included by the C&I identified are comprehensive and realistic. For this step, and in order to facilitate the process to participants, the indicators were grouped into aspects, which are defined as the specific issues covered by a criterion. Their meaning is broader and their writing less technical than that of the indicators.

The process was open to anyone living there. Participants were asked to value the criteria and, for each criterion, the aspects that it covers. They valued according to their management preferences for a public forest located in the municipality of the village, which is called La Hunde y La Palomera. Several authors of academic papers propose to identify and pre-select C&I based on relevant literature, followed by a process of verification or refinement by stakeholders (Kurka & Blackwood, 2013).

The participatory process was publicly announced hanging papers on walls and shop windows, and it was advertised in the local radio. Local associations whose interests are related to forest management or forest conservation were personally contacted (via telephone or face-to-face) in order to get a representation of the different stakeholders involved.

Figure 1 displays the structure of the proposed standard for this research. Every participant received a questionnaire with 19 questions, each of them containing a list of elements to value: 15 questions to value the aspects of each criterion, 3 questions to value the criteria of each group and 1 question to value the three groups of criteria.

Figure 1. General structure of the criteria and indicator standard developed in this research. There are three criteria groups: economic, ecological and social; each group consists of several criteria, every criterion is made of various aspects, and a few indicators correspond to every aspect.

The weighting method selected corresponds to a multi-criteria analysis (MCA) technique described by Gómez-Orea (2002) that is applied when participants are asked to value the elements of a list according to a predetermined scale whose values can be repeated. The elements of any question are valued giving a 1 to the most important for the participant and so progressively. As mentioned, the weighting method allowed participants to repeat values: for example, in a question comprising 7 elements, these could be valued 3-4-2-2-1-5-1; this would mean that for that participant there are two elements in the first order of importance and two in the second.

The aggregated weights of every aspect and every criterion, which take into account the values from all participants, are calculated following the method recommended by Gómez-Orea (2002). This method implies that the higher the value the better. However, in this research the lowest value (1) is the best. Therefore, the scale of the answers was inverted like this: value 1 changes into the number of elements of the list and it reduces progressively (this way the answers look like participants had valued according to a scale that equals the number of elements of the list). In the example aforementioned, it would be like asking participants to value 7 elements in a scale from 1 to7, the inverted scale would be:

1→7

2→6

3→5

4→4

5→3

6→2

7→1

The previous scheme shows for this example how would the values of the answers change when inverting the scale: on the left are the old values and on the right the new ones. The result would be 5-4-6-6-7-3-7. The inversion of the scales was done for all the questions of all the participants. Next, aggregated weights were calculated according to the method indicated, which consists of the following steps:

  1. In every question a table was made that put the elements in rows and the participants in columns. The table was fulfilled with the inverted values from participants.
  2. The sum of the inverted values of each participant was calculated at the bottom of each column.
  3. Every number that fulfilled the table was divided by the sum of the inverted values that corresponded to its column.
  4. The aggregated weight of each element was calculated summing all the new numbers in a row (calculated in step 3) and dividing this sum by the number of participants. The sum of the weights of all the elements in a question should be equal to 1.

ResultsTop

SFM criteria

A brief description of the resulting criteria and the bibliography consulted is provided in Table 5. A complete description appears in Suppl. file S1 [PDF on line].

A total of 15 criteria were identified: 3 economic, 7 social and 5 ecological. They take account of the multiple products (diversified exploitation of forests) and services of forests (recreation, historical and cultural heritage, biodiversity and habitats). Mediterranean features are considered in criteria like forest fires or biodiversity and habitats. The applicability of the criteria at the FMU scale can be seen in the fact that no consideration has been given to rural development and regular revenues, which are desirable outcomes of SFM but have to be considered at a regional level because they require association and coordinated actions among several forest owners (Madrigal, 2003). Besides, rural development needs the input of other sectors apart from forestry.

Indicators and aspects of the criteria

The number of indicators identified was 133; a subgroup of 24 indicators was proposed. The indicators have a simple writing, and a specific content. There are both quantitative and descriptive indicators. Many indicators serve to evaluate the state of the forest, but there are also indicators saying how to carry out certain management actions. Finally, there are indicators that encourage managers to innovate, like the ones referring to thinking of potential recreation activities and studying their demand.

The aspects that resulted from grouping the indicators to facilitate the participatory process are displayed in Table 6; this table allows an overview of what issues this research proposes to be relevant for sustainable management of Mediterranean forests. The indicators proposed together with the bibliography reviewed are in Table 7. In Suppl. file S2 [PDF on line] appears next to each indicator the references consulted for its identification.

Table 6. Aspects of the criteria and their descriptions.


Table 7. Indicators identified for each criterion and references consulted (1) for the identification.


Results of the participatory process

A group of 34 people participated. Their profiles were analysed and they were classified in the following groups: users for recreation (14 participants), environmentalists (9), hunters (2), forestry professionals (4, both with and without a university degree) and professionals of cultural and rural development activities (5).

The aggregated weights of the elements in most of the questions are similar. None of them receives a very low weight compared with the others of the same question. In this chapter only the answers to the questions showing meaningful differences for the aggregated weights of their elements are shown and analysed; these are presented in Figures 2, 3 and 4. Graphs showing the aggregated weights for the elements of all the questions are in Suppl. File S3 [PDF on line]. Besides, participants have not suggested adding any new elements to the standard.

Generally, the results show that participants value ecological issues on top and economic ones at the bottom. This is visible in the question in which they are asked to value the groups of criteria (Figure 4), but also in questions like the ones to value the aspects of the criteria mass flows and profitability of forest resources (Figure 2). In the case of mass flows, participants value prevention through vegetation (60%) more than through infrastructures (40%); whereas in the other case, they value in-kind incomes (43%) more than money incomes (24%). This preference towards ecological concerns is also visible in the valuation of the economic criteria (Figure 3), for which the highest aggregated weight corresponds to persistence and stability of forest resources (44%) and the lowest one to profitability of forest resources (22%).

Figure 2. Aggregated weight (%) of the aspects of the criteria profitability of forest resources, employment and working conditions, recreation, mass flows and forest fires.

Figure 3. Aggregated weight (%) of the criteria of the groups economic and ecological.

Figure 4. Aggregated weight (%) of the three groups of criteria.

Concerning the criterion employment and work conditions (Figure 2), training is the aspect that gets the highest aggregated weight (31%) and job opportunities stays at a very similar level (28%). Recreational activity obtains high values for social use (25%) and infrastructures (24%). Finally, even though the three aspects of forest fires do not differ much, extinction aid silviculture has the lowest weight (27%) and preventative silviculture the highest one (39%). Ecological criteria (Figure 3) do not show big differences in their weights, but it can be noticed that biodiversity and habitats, forest fires and hydrological regulation are slightly higher valued (23%, 22% and 21% respectively) than mass flows and carbon storage (16% and 18%).

DiscussionTop

This research dives into the considerations of SFM under Mediterranean conditions. A collection of 15 criteria applicable at the FMU level have been identified. These criteria intend to maintain and improve the provision of ecosystem services and cover the three pillars of SFM: economic, social and ecological. The existing C&I standards treat mainly ecological and resource quantity topics.

An assortment of 7 of the criteria identified in this research is social. The relevance of this type of issues is emphasized by other works. A similar study developed by Maroto et al. (2013) in the same region as this research (Valencia), but applied at a regional scale, highlights that social criteria of SFM are more important than economic ones for most stakeholder groups. Likewise, in a Mexican local community case study, the health of the forest was highly respected because the forest represented community pride, spiritual enjoyment, personal health and family cohesion. The researchers of this case study argued that the social dimensions of sustainability are more important where the economic role of forestry activities is marginal, like in most Mediterranean forests (Rodriguez-Piñeros & Lewis, 2013).

Ecosystem services are important in forests under all type of conditions. However, in Mediterranean forests they gain relevance because their productivity is low but the society appreciates and benefits from these services. Besides, the special characteristics of these forests make some of the ecosystem services, and therefore their associated criteria, very relevant:

  1. Heavy rains and scattered canopies increase the risk of erosion, mass flows and floods. These issues are considered in the criteria hydrological regulation and mass flows.
  2. The risk of big fires and pests make it necessary to manage resistant and resilient forests. This is mainly achieved through biodiversity, which is also worth maintaining because of its high value in Mediterranean forests. These concerns are tackled in the criteria forest fires, persistence and stability of forest resources and biodiversity and habitats.
  3. The cultural character of the landscape due to many years of intervention, addressed in the criterion historical and cultural heritage.
  4. Diversified exploitation as another means to overcome low profitability and because of the different products offered by Mediterranean forests: resins, truffles or cork; referred to in the criterion diversified exploitation of forest.

Apart from the benefits mentioned, applying an ecosystem services classification into the thinking of SFM has the advantage of encouraging an integrated approach with other land uses: a common language across sectors and more explicit focus on trade-offs and synergies. Nevertheless, it could happen that an incomplete valuation of the services pushes attention on the ones that are already quantified and monetised. Besides, emerging markets for single services may discourage multifunctional forests (Quine et al., 2013).

Regarding the indicators, an effort has been made for them to be simple and easy to know what has to be measured or considered. These two characteristics are hardly found in existing standards. For example, the indicators of FSC-Spain (GTC-FSC, 2007) are perceived as clear in what they refer to but made of very long sentences. On the other hand, the indicators of PEFC-Spain (AENOR, 2007a; AENOR, 2007b) are seen like having a simpler wording, quite clear in their objectives, but less clear on what variables or qualities to look at. The standard proposed in this work just intends to offer another option for forest managers that overcomes these perceived weaknesses, but not to stay above the work developed by others.

Concerning the participatory process developed to verify that the issues addressed by the C&I proposed are sensible, the groups of participants are representative of the stakeholders related to the forest. However, the amount of members in each group is not even but, on the whole, the total number of participants is considered enough to draw conclusions. Results reveal that participants value ecological issues on top, followed by social ones, and noticeably economic ones at the bottom. The study by Maroto et al. (2013) also acknowledges the lesser relevance of economic criteria and the greater importance of ecological criteria in sustainable and participative management of Mediterranean forests.

With respect to the valuing and aggregation method, Mendoza & Prabhu (2000) conclude that MCA techniques are excellent for prioritizing a list of C&I. They describe two similar methods (ranking and rating) for establishing a hierarchy among principles and criteria (similar to criteria and aspects, as it has been done in this research). The aggregated weights that result from the participatory process show that participants cannot establish preferences easily. Therefore, few priorities can be made among criteria and aspects but, on the other hand, it suggests that the standard proposed is applicable. Similarly, Mendoza & Prabhu (2000) propose the use of the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) as the one most involved and also providing the most information but also most complex and time consuming. They recommend the use of AHP to examine the relative weights at the indicator level because it is there where the principles and criteria are measurable and observable, and this is how it is intended to proceed with this research in next stages.

A similar study to this one shows that the methods followed is quite common and that the indicators presented here constitute a starting point from which more work is needed. Maes et al. (2011) developed an indicator framework to be applied at stand level in Flanders (Belgium). Their framework was set up by the authors and a few experts, resulting in 19 criteria and 157 indicators, which were selected from literature and assigned to a criterion. Later on, a validation step was carried out. In words of Maes et al. (2011), only a validation procedure can transform a potential set of indicators into a suitable set. Future steps of this research will consider the performance of the indicators in a specific FMU for different management scenarios.

ConclusionsTop

This research set out to identify C&I of SFM under Mediterranean conditions, adapted to an ecosystem services framework, and applicable at the FMU level. The process followed for the identification includes literature review of themes related to the research topic, an expert consultation to improve a set of criteria previously proposed and a participatory process to verify the issues considered in the C&I set. A standard comprising 15 criteria and 133 indicators has been developed as a result.

SFM is based on the multifunctional use and exploitation of forests and it considers the social and environmental implications and consequences associated to forestry. The concept of SFM and its application have to be adapted to the particular conditions of each case; this is especially relevant in Mediterranean forests due to their specific characteristics.

Existing C&I standards and studies focus on the ecological and productive issues of SFM; social and cultural ones usually appear all together in a single criterion. The development of a C&I standard based on the maintenance and enhancement of the provision of ecosystem services searches for a balance among the three pillars of sustainability: economic, social and ecological. The criteria identified in this research adapt to an ecosystem services classification and so they cover these three pillars. The indicators proposed overcome another shortfall of existing C&I standards, whose wording is ambiguous and long. A big effort has been done for the indicators to have a simple and specific writing.

The results of the participatory process do not reveal big differences for most of the aggregated weights of the elements of the different questions. This findings make it difficult to establish priorities among criteria and aspects, but also suggest that the topics covered by the C&I proposed are suitable to Mediterranean conditions and that a standard adapted to ecosystem services is applicable.

This work has been conceived as an exploratory research. It has included top-down and bottom-up approaches to develop a proposal of C&I, which serves as a checklist of “what to look at” when managing Mediterranean forests sustainably. However, it remains to be seen whether the selected C&I can be successfully employed for decision making processes, by testing them in different scenarios in a specific case study. Besides, more case studies are needed to develop a general set applicable in Spanish forests under Mediterranean conditions. Nevertheless, this proposed set can serve for similar research or decision making situations as a starting point for C&I pre-selection. C&I constitute a piece of the puzzle; a sustainable management based on ecosystem services depends upon many drivers, not all of them coming from the forest sector (subsidies, payments for ecosystem services).


NotesTop

[1]

Standard or set refers to a group of criteria and indicators that has been developed to monitor and assess the performance of forest management for specific ecological, social and economical conditions.

[2]

Management actions refer to all the procedures and activities of forestry: from planning goals to silvicultural treatments.

ReferencesTop

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