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Title: Forests of the future : ecosystem services in a forest landscape facing significant changes
Author: Tew, Eleanor Rosemary
ISNI:       0000 0004 8501 4275
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The natural environment provides a range of benefits to people via ecosystem services. Different types of land management deliver different combinations and amounts of ecosystem services. Traditionally, many landscapes were managed to maximise the delivery of just a few benefits, such as food or timber, but this was often at the expense of other potential benefits, such as carbon sequestration or water supply. The ecosystem services approach aims to improve land management by explicitly recognising and quantifying the full range of benefits, acknowledging that all ecosystem services contribute to human wellbeing. However, despite there being much research, there is as yet limited practical application. This PhD thesis explores ecosystem service delivery in an applied forestry context, using Thetford Forest (East Anglia, UK) as a case study with the aim of generating practical recommendations for future management. As part of the UK Public Forest Estate, the delivery of a wide range of public benefits is today a central objective of forest management. However, the forest is currently facing significant changes in response to a range of issues such as climate change and disease. I quantified the delivery of a comprehensive suite of ecosystem services for a wide range of realistic management options for the Thetford Forest landscape. Working in collaboration with the Forestry Commission (managers of Thetford Forest and my CASE partner), I tailored my research to include all the management options that are under consideration for the future of the forest. I systematically quantified how these different management options deliver nine ecosystem services: timber, carbon, deer (for game but also a management problem), water supply, soil quality, recreation, wildlife, scenic beauty and tranquillity, heritage and educational value. I conducted an in-depth analysis for each ecosystem service, using a combination of novel methodologies and adaptations of existing techniques. It is generally acknowledged that management for ecosystem services does not always align with objectives for biodiversity conservation so I also explored how forest management affects bird diversity (as an indicator of wider biodiversity), using high-resolution remote sensing data to calculate a number of structural characteristics. Overall, wide-scale landscape heterogeneity was more important for bird diversity than within-stand heterogeneity. In my final chapter I collated all the results for the different ecosystem services to evaluate the trade-offs and synergies between them and between different management options. I identified twelve management options that were the most efficient in terms of ecosystem service delivery. I conducted multi-criteria decision analysis to find the landscape configurations that maximise ecosystem service delivery, and investigated the effects of different values and preferences. Results were generally robust to such changes and could also align with strategies for bird conservation. The overall recommendation was for a third of the Thetford Forest landscape to be open space, half to be conifers (with a ratio of mixtures to monocultures of around 1:2) managed through a combination of both rotational clearfell and continuous-cover, and the remainder to be conifer and broadleaved mixtures, broadleaved monocultures and a small broadleaved mixture component. This thesis illustrates a comprehensive assessment of potential ecosystem service delivery to generate recommendations for the future management of a landscape. The approach adopted here has wide application in translating ecosystem services research to practical decision making.
Supervisor: Sutherland, William ; Spencer, Jonathan ; Brooke, Richard Sponsor: NERC ; Forestry England
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: ecosystem services ; forestry ; forests ; land management ; timber ; carbon ; biodiversity ; water ; recreation ; wildlife ; scenic beauty ; heritage ; deer ; conifers ; broadleaves ; conservation ; cultural ; Thetford Forest