, Volume 18, Issue 13, pp 3483-3501
Date: 05 Jun 2009

Estimating multiple benefits from vegetation in mediterranean ecosystems

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Ecosystems of the Mediterranean region are characterized by a heterogeneous and dynamic landscape mosaic of vegetation formations that provide diverse benefits: agro pastoral products, ecosystem services, and other utilities. Valuation of these benefits in different states of the ecosystem is an important step towards conservation, decision making, and land management. Yet, studies of this kind are scarce, especially cases dealing with more than one benefit. Multiple benefits evaluation is not straightforward; it involves many difficulties and questions which have no agreed solutions, e.g. estimation, common currency, and optimal solution. In this study we present a methodology for the estimation of three benefits in different components of Mediterranean woody vegetation in Israel. Densities of geophyte wildflowers, honey flowers, and fleshy fruits as food for birds were measured within five vegetation components defined by dominant plant functional types, in four sites with different disturbance histories. Each benefit was measured in its own units. The results showed significant differences between vegetation states in values of each benefit. Therefore, it is possible to calculate the contributions of different cover components for these three benefits. Furthermore, this indicates that it is possible to estimate the level of benefits at larger scales as a first approximation, by considering only the composition of the vegetation cover. The values for the three benefits were standardized to illustrate the question of multiple benefits valuation. This method does not lead to an optimization, but can nevertheless provide a useful tool toward conservation and rational management by land managers and policy makers.