Are ecosystem service hotspots located in protected areas? Results from a study in Southern Italy

In this paper, the provisioning of ecosystem services (carbon storage, protection against soil erosion, biodiversity and recreation) within the landscape surrounding the city of Bari in southern Italy is analysed. The analysis is carried out through an analysis of this landscape, which includes protected natural areas such as Natura 2000 sites, national and regional parks and nature reserves. The results show that most of the landscape of the study area supplied at least one of the selected ecosystem services and that the hotspots of the selected ecosystem services were mainly located within forests and/or natural areas. These hotspots occupied 8.0% of the total landscape, with 23.7% located in protected natural areas. Cold spots were scarce (2.4%) and constituted only 0.1% of the natural protected areas. Almost the entire landscape (89.6%) consists of intermediate areas (i.e. between hotspots and cold spots). 76.2% of the natural protected areas consist of intermediate areas. This last finding is relevant because high intermediate classes are potentially high yielding areas, which are mainly found at the boundaries of protected areas; they can positively influence ecological processes and thus enhance a wide range of ecosystem services. It highlights the importance of analysing landscapes to facilitate the selection of priority areas where management efforts would yield maximum benefits.

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