Biodiversity “hotspots” more likely to have greater ecosystem co-benefits

Areas that are “hotspots” of biodiversity can carry higher value for other important ecosystem services, including carbon storage, water conservation and scenic beauty, according to a new study. In areas that provide high carbon storage, however, benefits from the other services are slightly lower.

That means land-use planners can reap maximum benefits from various environmental services if they emphasize protection of areas of high biodiversity, said Bruno Locatelli, lead author of a paper published in the journal Environmental Conservation.

The study, which examined synergies and trade-offs among ecosystem services, especially in national parks, showed that areas of high carbon storage and high biodiversity did not always coincide.

That has important implications for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and forest Degradation) programs, a U.N.-backed mechanism that would provide incentives to conserve forests and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Costa Rica has been a pioneer in payments for ecosystem services (PES), in which landowners receive compensation for managing forests or other lands sustainably.

In some cases, forests provide services that benefit local residents, such as scenic beauty or regulation of downstream water supplies. Other services, such as biodiversity or carbon storage for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, benefit the entire country, even the entire world, the researchers said.

The study found that services provided by ecosystems varied depending on factors such as topography, climate and biogeography.

For example, forests protect soils from erosion more on mountain slopes than in the lowlands, while lowland forests tend to be home to a larger number of species.

Source: Barbara Fraser | CIFOR