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Doctoral thesis2017Open access

Wood-pasture diagnostics : ecosystem services, restoration and biodiversity conservation

Garrido, Pablo


Wood-pastures are multi-functional habitats that uphold high ecological and cultural values. However, they are currently declining in Europe as a result of land use changes. How can we better understand wood-pastures to foster conservation? To answer the question it is necessary to investigate both the social and ecological components of wood-pastures. Ecosystem services assessments have been dominated by biophysical and economic valuation approaches, while qualitative socio-cultural valuations are not commonly applied and therefore important services to people fail to be captured. To this end, a cross-site comparison of stakeholder perspectives in Sweden and Spain was applied here. This approach allows to additionally explore particular services and to identify current challenges for wood-pasture conservation. In Sweden, most valued services were related to landscape beauty and recreation and eco-tourism, as well as pastures and biodiversity. In contrast, Spanish respondents perceived additional cultural services such as sense of place and identity values, traditional knowledge, cultural landscape and heritage values. Such similarities and differences might be explained by space and place theories of human-landscape relationship. Wood-pasture dehesas may then be perceived as places since people live within a wood-pasture matrix, and therefore have created associated values and social identities to the landscape transforming wood-pastures into places. Swedish respondents identified the abandonment of wood-pastures and lack of new entrants into farming as major challenges for landscape and biodiversity conservation. To test potential new alternatives for wood-pasture restoration and management a field exclusion experiment was applied, where horse stallions were introduced. Horses reduced forest structural diversity and affected tree composition via selective browsing, suggesting that they could restore and maintain wood-pastures in Sweden. Horse grazing changed the functional composition of grasslands which favored prostrate plant species, with high specific leaf area, characteristic of ruderal communities. Plant and pollinator species richness were significantly higher in grazed compared to ungrazed areas. Thus, the reintroduction of horses may mitigate current biodiversity declines and foster wood-pasture and semi-natural grassland conservation


browsing pressure, ecosystem services, forest structure and composition, functional traits, grazing, large herbivores, pollinators, semi-natural grasslands, species richness, wood-pastures

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2017, number: 2017:97
ISBN: 978-91-7760-084-8, eISBN: 978-91-7760-085-5
Publisher: School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science
    Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

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