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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Expert assessment of landscape-level conservation strategies in boreal forests for biodiversity, recreation and water quality

Filyushkina, Anna; Widenfalk, Lina A.; Nordstrom, Eva-Maria; Laudon, Hjalmar; Ranius, Thomas


Determining effects of landscape-level conservation strategies is needed, yet a challenging and costly endeavour. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of landscape-level conservation strategies in forests on biodiversity and provision of two ecosystem services (recreation and water quality). Specifically, we focused on the spatial allocation of unmanaged areas in production forests and different levels of "land sharing" or "land sparing". They were represented through seven scenarios constructed for a boreal managed forest landscape in central Sweden. All scenarios had the same total level of conservation effort, but they differed in the combinations of sizes of unmanaged areas and how these areas were spread in the landscape. In one scenario, this was complemented with extended rotation of production areas. Experts (researchers in relevant fields) assessed these scenarios for overall biodiversity, recreation, and water quality. We used the Delphi technique: experts filled out an online survey individually in two rounds. In the second round they were familiarized with anonymized responses of others from the previous round. There was little agreement between experts whether concentration of unmanaged areas in one part of the landscape or dispersion of them around the entire area is more beneficial, for biodiversity as well as for the two ecosystem services. The explanation of the opinions given by biodiversity experts were based on different ecological theories resulting in different conclusions (mainly habitat complementation vs. metapopulation ecology). A few large unmanaged areas were considered more beneficial for biodiversity than many small areas. The main argument was that long-term species persistence becomes higher with larger areas. For recreation and water quality, there were almost no differences in estimates between these two strategies. One "land sharing" approach, retention trees, received the lowest score. The second "land sharing" approach, extended rotation, was scored higher, especially regarding recreation. This may be because extended rotations generate features of high recreational value, such as mature, thinned forests with not so much dead wood. Conclusively, we suggest a strategy of mixed conservation measures, with considerable efforts directed towards establishing and maintaining large unmanaged areas.


Extended rotation; Land sparing vs land sharing; Nature reserves; Scenarios; Delphi technique

Published in

Journal for Nature Conservation
2022, Volume: 67, article number: 126180