Biodiversity conservation effectiveness provided by a protection status in temperate forest commons of north Spain

Sara Guadilla-Sáez, Manuel Pardo-de-Santayana, Victoria Reyes-García, Jens Christian Svenning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

7 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Elsevier B.V. The establishment and maintenance of protected areas is the backbone of global conservation strategies to halt biodiversity loss. However, despite the more than 200,000 legally designated protected sites worldwide, the rate of species extinction has not decreased, for which some debate the real effectiveness of protected areas to preserve biodiversity. Using data from tropical areas, many studies have attempted to test the effectiveness of protected areas by comparing species richness in protected and neighbouring unprotected sites, without reaching a consensus. Here, we extend this line of research with data from temperate deciduous forests inside and outside Picos de Europa National Park and Biosphere Reserve (N Spain). Specifically we compare data from mixed broadleaved woodlands, beech forests (Fagus sylvatica L.) and Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica Willd.) forests. We conducted botanical inventories and recorded ecological data from 25 0.2-ha concentric plots distributed in forest commons inside the reserve and from other 25 similar plots established in neighbouring not protected forest commons. Data were used to construct a set of ecological indicators and evaluated using modelling methods. We found no significant differences in species composition between plots in protected and non-protected forest commons, likely due to the similar management criteria applied in both land uses. We found less active management outside the protected area, which helps to maintain stands in a semi-natural state. In contrast, we observed the presence of silvicultural treatments inside the protected area, although these treatments were non-intensive, promoting vegetation composition associated to late-successional ecosystems. We only detected significant differences between plots inside and outside the protected area when relation between species richness was analysed with reference to forest habitat type. Precisely, plots of beech forests inside Picos de Europa were more homogenous than plots outside the protected area, which may indicate that management practices inside the protected area do not favour tree species diversity. Non-intensive silviculture management in beech forests inside Picos de Europa seems to promote the presence of the dominant tree species Fagus sylvatica L., which in the absence of perturbations is characterized by conforming monospecific vegetation communities. Overall, our results do not support the idea that protected areas hold more biodiversity than surrounding forest commons. Conservation treatments applied in protected areas should promote the presence of species associated to disturbances, particularly in stands tending to homogeneous species composition at late-successional stages, as this may enhance their resilience under the current rapid global changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)656-666
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • Anthropogenic disturbances
  • Biodiversity indices
  • Protected area
  • Species richness
  • Temperate deciduous forests


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