This study analyzes the capability of current protected area networks in the semi-arid region of Spain to provide intermediate regulating services (habitat preservation for threatened species, climate regulation, erosion control and water flow maintenance) to support the final provisioning service of cultivated crops to support local communities. It was found that existing networks of protected lands supply considerable quantities of ecosystem services, in particular carbon stocks and groundwater recharge.
Results demonstrate that the integration of systematic analyses of ecosystem services gaps in protected area planning could contribute substantially to safeguarding ecosystem services and biodiversity jointly. However, our study also reveals substantial differences in intermediate ecosystem services supplied by different of protected areas networks, with category VI areas (Natura-2000 sites) generally showing the highest potential for ecosystem services supply. This demonstrates the important role of Natura-2000 sites for preserving regulating services in the European semi-arid region.