Italian forests preserve ecosystem services through sustainable management

Two Italian entities publicly owning forests in the regions of Lombardy and Tuscany have used the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure to prove their positive impacts related to carbon sequestration, watershed quality and recreational services.

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Photo: Matteo A. Rapella

The Regional Authority for Agriculture and Forestry Services of the Lombardy Region (ERSAF in Italian) and Union of Municipalities Valdarno and Valdisieve (UCVV in Italian) respectively manage 16,594 and 1,448 hectares of forest. Recently, both demonstrated beneficial impacts linked to the restoration of forest carbon stocks, thanks to the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure.

The FSC procedure provides a global approach that certificate holders can use to demonstrate the impact of their forest management activities and requires a comparison between present and past data to evaluate positive ecosystem service impacts: an independent certification body oversees this process and, if verified, each proposed positive impact results in a so-called claim the certificate holder can use for communication purposes or to attract investments.

UCVV proved the total net carbon stock in their forest increased over 20 per cent since 2004, amounting to more than 650 thousand tons of CO2 absorbed (as of 2019), while ERSAF’s net carbon stock increased over 18 per cent since 2009, reaching over 3 million tons of carbon dioxide absorbed (as of 2019) – this is equal to the average annual emission of 184,000 cars. Furthermore, they committed to maintaining the same growth trend in carbon stocks for the next ten years.

ERSAF has also protected 30 freshwater sources in its forests from degradation, excessive human consumption and contamination; these measures significantly improved the pH and nitrogen levels of those sources so ERSAF has verified positive impacts related to the maintenance of water quality. UCVV has preserved a forest area equal to 2,400 football fields for over 15 years in Tuscany, improved infrastructures and increased the number of annual guest visits to the property, with the aim of enhancing recreational and tourism activities through good forest management.

ERSAF and UCVV are the latest cases of a positive trend that sees Italy among the frontrunners in ecosystem services development: in December 2018, all five natural services offered by forests (conservation of biodiversity; improvement of water quality and quantity; soil conservation; increased carbon storage and sequestration; improvement of tourist-recreational services) were verified on a 1.000 hectares forest area in Po valley. A few months later, the same verification was applied to a poplar plantation between Mantua and Parma with record numbers: 37 hectares dedicated to biodiversity conservation; 1,866 tons of CO2 stored; 123 tons of soil conserved from erosion; 352 hectares of areas dedicated to tourist-recreational and landscape purposes.