Operationalising ecosystem services for effective management of protected areas: Experiences and challenges
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Protected areas are crucial for biodiversity conservation and the provision of ecosystem services (ES), but management efforts seem not to be sufficient. To increase management effectiveness, the ES framework offers new promising environmental governance instruments, however, the operational use is still poorly integrated in the management of protected areas. This study used a framework designed for Natura 2000 sites for effective management of protected areas by valorising ES. This framework was applied to 21 study sites in Italy, and 55 ES were quantified in biophysical and monetary terms. Forty-one payments for ecosystem services (PES) were implemented in a participatory process involving local communities and stakeholders. Assessment of the management effectiveness before and after the implementation of PES demonstrated that integrating ES into the management of protected areas can improve their management effectiveness and contribute to regional development through PES. Based on the authors’ experiences, the study highlights various difficulties and opportunities related to ES assessment, implementation of PES, stakeholder engagement, and monitoring of management effectiveness. It also discusses general challenges related to the operationalisation of ES in protected areas, providing recommendations for science and practice.