Continental mapping of forest ecosystem functions reveals a high but unrealised potential for forest multifunctionality

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Humans require multiple services from ecosystems, but it is largely unknown whether trade-offs between ecosystem functions prevent the realisation of high ecosystem multifunctionality across spatial scales. Here, we combined a comprehensive dataset (28 ecosystem functions measured on 209 forest plots) with a forest inventory dataset (105,316 plots) to extrapolate and map relationships between various ecosystem multifunctionality measures across Europe. These multifunctionality measures reflected different management objectives, related to timber production, climate regulation and biodiversity conservation/recreation. We found that trade-offs among them were rare across Europe, at both local and continental scales. This suggests a high potential for ‘win-win’ forest management strategies, where overall multifunctionality is maximised. However, across sites, multifunctionality was on average 45.8-49.8% below maximum levels and not necessarily highest in protected areas. Therefore, using one of the most comprehensive assessments so far, our study suggests a high but largely unrealised potential for management to promote multifunctional forests.

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