Beneficiaries are largely disregarded or only mentioned in ecosystem services assessments related to protected areas. Thus, this study proposes indicators for identifying potential beneficiaries on the local and regional level, focusing on 16 relevant ecosystem services of Natura 2000 sites. For a case study in northern Italy, it was used spatially-explicit modelling approaches to map and quantify the potential beneficiaries of multiple ecosystem services, including distance decay functions and basin catchment modelling.
The resulting maps indicate that for provisioning and cultural services, the majority of the beneficiaries are located outside the protected area, whereas the beneficiaries of regulating services are mostly situated within or very close to it. The indicators and the beneficiary maps offer an important basis for an exhaustive assessment of ecosystem services flows from Natura 2000 sites and support the implementation of conservation policies by involving the local population and the community of users of protected areas.