The ecosystem approach, ecosystem services and established forestry policy approaches in the United Kingdom | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
May 2017
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A series of approaches have been proposed for natural resource management and biodiversity conservation in recent decades. In the important forestry sector, two of the most dominant policy paradigms have been multi-purpose forestry and sustainable forest management. The Convention on Biological Diversity, amongst other transnational commitments, added the ecosystem approach and its related idea of ecosystem services to this succession which is increasingly becoming the basis for natural resource management, including in the United Kingdom (UK). However, this latest addition raises the stimulating question of whether in forestry the ecosystem approach and the associated ecosystem services concept really constitute something fundamentally new, or are merely an extension or re-branding of existing policy approaches. This paper contributes to a lively contemporary debate surrounding the ecosystem approach and ecosystem services, by examining how these two interrelated but distinctly different concepts are currently understood and adopted within UK forestry and in the context of established forestry policy paradigms. For this purpose, I undertook a review of the scholarly literature and legal and policy documents which have been triangulated with a survey of the attitudes, interpretations and opinions of forestry stakeholders through expert interviews. The analysis suggests that in the UK forestry sector, as elsewhere, the frequency of, often broad and ambiguous approaches to natural resource management and biodiversity conservation in general, and forestry policy and management in particular, are causing confusion amongst some stakeholders, who, unsurprisingly frequently conflate concepts seemingly without understanding the details. However, a clear understanding of the differences and similarities of these important concepts, stemming from overlapping but different disciplines, is crucially important for successful policy implementation and sustainable forest management. This article attempts to contribute to such a clarification and to further interdisciplinary understanding.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Raum, Susanne


Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.

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