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

Fons van der Plas, Sophia Ratcliffe, Paloma Ruiz-Benito, Michael Scherer-Lorenzen, Kris Verheyen, Christian Wirth, Miguel A. Zavala, Evy Ampoorter, Lander Baeten, Luc Barbaro, Cristina C. Bastias, Juergen Bauhus, Raquel Benavides, Adam Benneter, Damien Bonal, Olivier Bouriaud, Helge Bruelheide, Filippo Bussotti, Monique Carnol, Bastien CastagneyrolYohan Charbonnier, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen, Jonas Dahlgren, Ewa Checko, Andrea Coppi, Seid Muhie Dawud, Marc Deconchat, Pallieter De Smedt, Hans De Wandeler, Timo Domisch, Leena Finer, Mariangela Fotelli, Arthur Gessler, Andre Granier, Charlotte Grossiord, Virginie Guyot, Josephine Haase, Stephan Haettenschwiler, Herve Jactel, Bogdan Jaroszewicz, Francois-Xavier Joly, Tommaso Jucker, Stephan Kambach, Gerald Kaendler, Jens Kattge, Julia Koricheva, Georges Kunstler, Aleksi Lehtonen, Mario Liebergesell, Peter Manning, Harriet Milligan, Sandra Mueller, Bart Muys, Diem Nguyen, Charles Nock, Bettina Ohse, Alain Paquette, Josep Penuelas, Martina Pollastrini, Kalliopi Radoglou, Karsten Raulund-Rasmussen, Fabian Roger, Rupert Seidl, Federico Selvi, Jan Stenlid, Fernando Valladares, Johan van Keer, Lars Vesterdal, Markus Fischer, Lars Gamfeldt, Eric Allan

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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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31-42
    Number of pages12
    JournalEcology Letters
    Issue number1
    Early online date15 Nov 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


    This paper is a joint effort of the working group ‘Scaling biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relations: a synthesis based on the FunDivEUROPE research platforms’ on the 24th–26th November 2014 in Leipzig, Germany, kindly supported by sDiv, the Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, funded by the German Research Foundation (FZT 118). The FunDi-vEUROPE project received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement No. 265171. We thank the MAGRAMA for access to the Spanish Forest Inventory, the Johann Heinrich von Thu€nen-Institut for access to the German National Forest Inventories, the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) for making the Finnish NFI data available, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences for making the Swedish NFI data available, and Hugues Lecomte, from the Walloon Forest Inventory, for access to the Walloon NFI data. The study was supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits ( The TRY initiative and database is hosted, developed and maintained at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany. TRY is/has been supported by DIVERSITAS, IGBP, the Global Land Project, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through its program QUEST (Quantifying and Understanding the Earth System), the French Foundation for Biodiversity Research (FRB), and GIS ‘Climat, Environnement et Société’ France.

    FundersFunder number
    Environnement et Société’ France
    European Union’s Seventh Programme
    French Foundation for Biodiversity Research
    GIS ‘Climat
    Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research
    Seventh Framework Programme265171
    Natural Environment Research Council
    National Eye Research Centre
    Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftFZT 118
    Fondation pour la Recherche sur la Biodiversite


      • Biodiversity
      • FunDivEUROPE
      • climate
      • ecosystem multifunctionality
      • ecosystem services
      • forest
      • large-scale
      • phylogenetic diversity
      • tree communities
      • upscaling


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