Integrating stakeholders' demands and scientific knowledge on ecosystem services in landscape planning.
The conflict between conservation and timber production is shifting in regions such as Biscay (Basque Country, northern Spain) where planted forests are no longer profitable without public subsidies and environmentalist claim that public subsidies should be reoriented to the regeneration of natural forest. This paper develops an approach that integrates scientific knowledge and stakeholders' demands to provide decision-making guidelines for the development of new landscape planning strategies while considering ecosystem services. First, a participatory process was conducted to develop a community vision for the region's sustainable future considering the opportunities and constrains provided by the landscape and its ecosystems. In the participatory process forest management was considered an important driver for the region's landscape development and forest multi-functionality was envisioned as a feasible attractive alternative. The participatory process identified a knowledge gap on the synergies and trade-offs between biodiversity and carbon storage and how these depend on different forest types. Second, to study the existing synergies and trade-offs between biodiversity and carbon storage and disentangle the identified knowledge gap, a GIS-based research was conducted based on spatially explicit indicators. Our spatial analysis results showed that natural forests' contribution to biodiversity and carbon storage is higher than that of the plantations with exotic species in the region. The results from the spatial analysis converged with those from the participatory process in the suitability of promoting, where possible and appropriate, natural forest ecosystems restoration. This iterative learning and decision making process is already showing its effectiveness for decision making, with concrete examples of how the results obtained with the applied approach are being included in planning and decision-making processes.