Original Article

Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 911-926

First online:

Hierarchical priority setting for restoration in a watershed in NE Spain, based on assessments of soil erosion and ecosystem services

  • Mattia TrabucchiAffiliated withPyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC) Email author 
  • , Francisco A. ComínAffiliated withPyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC)
  • , Patrick J. O’FarrellAffiliated withNatural Resources and the Environment, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

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Maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services through the restoration of degraded ecosystems have become an important biodiversity conservation strategy. Deciding where to restore ecosystems for the attainment of multiple services is a key issue for future planning, management, and human well-being. Most restoration projects usually entail a small number of actions in a local area and do not consider the potential benefits of planning restoration at broad regional scales. We developed a hierarchical priority setting approach to evaluate the performance of restoration measures in a semiarid basin in NE Spain (the Martín River Basin, 2,112 km2). Our analysis utilized a combination of erosion (a key driver of degradation in this Mediterranean region) and six spatially explicit ecosystem services data layers (five of these maps plotted surrogates for soil retention and accumulation, water supply and regulation, and carbon storage, and one plotted a cultural service, ecotourism). Hierarchical maps were generated using a geographic information system that combined areas important for providing a bundle of ecosystem services, as state variables, with erosion maps, as the disturbance or regulatory variable. This was performed for multiple scales, thereby identifying the most adequate scale of analysis and establishing a spatial hierarchy of restoration actions based on the combination of the evaluation of erosion rates and the provision of ecosystem services. Our approach provides managers with a straightforward method for determining the spatial distribution of values for a set of ecosystem services in relation to ecological degradation thresholds and for allocating efforts and resources for restoration projects in complex landscapes.


Basin management Mediterranean Spatial prioritization Semiarid landscape GIS Planning