Dalal Hanna

McGill University
The contribution of protected areas to ecosystem service provision and biodiversity

Dalal Hanna, Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne & Elena Bennett

In addition to conserving extraordinary natural features and biodiversity, protected areas contribute to the provision of ecosystem services. These ecosystem services have the potential to be provided both inside and outside of protected area boundaries, although their quantity and quality may not be same. This study investigates the quantity and quality of ecosystem services provided in and nearby streams with protected status versus those without protected status. Collecting field data in Quebec, Canada, we compared the provision of biodiversity and five ecosystem services - water quality, habitat quality, wild foods, recreation, and carbon storage - in 28 streams located in and around seven parks (IUCN Category II protected areas). Each protected stream was paired with three comparable unprotected streams with watersheds predominantly occupied by intact, but unprotected forest, forest subject to active forestry, or open land actively used for agriculture. Our results show that the quantity and quality of services and biodiversity is different in protected streams and riparian zones relative to those embedded in production landscapes. These differences are driven by variation in land use, and result from an increase in habitat quality, carbon storage, and high quality water, as well as tree biodiversity, in protected streams. Recreation, wild foods, and aquatic biodiversity did not vary across land uses, showing that some services can be provided just as well in protected and unprotected areas. Protection status can be used to ensure the continued supply of services that are sensitive to changes in land use. These findings help better understand the ecosystem service provision and biodiversity conservation outcomes of protection. They provide useful information about the trade-offs and synergies that result from developing a watershed, or from protecting it, to land use managers charged with ensuring the sustainable and equitable provision of ecosystem services and biodiversity across multifunctional landscapes.