Assessing Landscape Functions with Broad-Scale Environmental Data: Insights Gained from a Prototype Development for Europe

Kienast, Felix ; Bolliger, Janine ; Potschin, Marion ; de Groot, Rudolf ; Verburg, Peter ; Heller, Iris ; Wascher, Dirk ; Haines-Young, Roy

In: Environmental Management, 2009, vol. 44, no. 6, p. 1099-1120

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    We examine the advantages and disadvantages of a methodological framework designed to analyze the poorly understood relationships between the ecosystem properties of large portions of land, and their capacities (stocks) to provide goods and services (flows). These capacities (stocks) are referred to as landscape functions. The core of our assessment is a set of expert- and literature-driven binary links, expressing whether specific land uses or other environmental properties have a supportive or neutral role for given landscape functions. The binary links were applied to the environmental properties of 581 administrative units of Europe with widely differing environmental conditions and this resulted in a spatially explicit landscape function assessment. To check under what circumstances the binary links are able to replace complex interrelations, we compared the landscape function maps with independently generated continent-wide assessments (maps of ecosystem services or environmental parameters/indicators). This rigorous testing revealed that for 9 out of 15 functions the straightforward binary links work satisfactorily and generate plausible geographical patterns. This conclusion holds primarily for production functions. The sensitivity of the nine landscape functions to changes in land use was assessed with four land use scenarios (IPCC SRES). It was found that most European regions maintain their capacity to provide the selected services under any of the four scenarios, although in some cases at other locations within the region. At the proposed continental scale, the selected input parameters are thus valid proxies which can be used to assess the mid-term potential of landscapes to provide goods and services