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Limitations of Protected Areas Zoning in Mediterranean Cultural Landscapes Under the Ecosystem Services Approach


Protected areas have been created worldwide to set apart certain areas from land-use transformation. The biodiversity and ecosystems protected by these areas deliver several ecosystem services. Recently, besides increasing global protected coverage, there has been a growing demand to assess the adequacy of protected areas management. In this study, we assessed how the management of protected areas can deal with ecosystem services taking as example the Doñana and Sierra Nevada protected areas (Spain). For that aim we analyzed the protected area management plans, mapped seven ecosystem services, and assessed how they are affected by protected area zoning and land-use intensity. We found that although provisioning and cultural services are included in the management plans of the protected areas under a different terminology, regulating services are barely addressed. Ecosystem service delivery varies depending on several factors including the protection category of the protected areas (protection intensity), land-use intensity and geomorphological factors, among others. Therefore, we discuss that integrating ecosystem services in protected area management requires dealing with complexity, necessitating the establishment of specific goals for ecosystem service delivery, which include ecosystem service synergies and trade-offs.

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We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments as well as the Spanish Ministry of the Environment (Project 018/2009) for the financial support that permitted the creation of this manuscript and to the European Commission project ‘‘OpenNESS’’ (code 308428), as well as the Ministry of Education for the FPU fellowship.

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Correspondence to Ignacio Palomo.

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Author Contributions

IP, BML, and CM conceived and designed the study; IP, BML, PA, and CM performed the research; IP and BML analyzed the data; and IP, BML, PA, and CM wrote the paper.

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Palomo, I., Martín-López, B., Alcorlo, P. et al. Limitations of Protected Areas Zoning in Mediterranean Cultural Landscapes Under the Ecosystem Services Approach. Ecosystems 17, 1202–1215 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-014-9788-y

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  • cultural landscapes
  • ecosystem service bundles
  • mapping
  • social–ecological system
  • trade-offs