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Analysis of forest-related policies for supporting ecosystem services-based forest management in Bangladesh

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The role of the ecosystem services concept in natural resource management policies is gaining popularity globally as a means to offer increased protection of biodiversity conservation, integrated natural resource management and for promoting sustainable forest management. However, assessments of the concept in supporting forest management, through its inclusion in forest policy, is yet to be fully understood in a developing-country context. We analysed national forest-related policy to determine if the elements of the ecosystem services concept or ecosystem services categories were represented in order to support regional and national forest and tree management and rural livelihoods in Bangladesh. Specifically we assessed the policy objectives, statements and proposed programmes of ten policy/legislative documents. We applied a weighted scoring system to assess the coherence between existing policies and the ecosystem services concept and three categories of ecosystem services (provisioning, regulating and cultural services). It was found that, while ecosystem services were mentioned in all forest-related policies in Bangladesh, only one policy covered the ecosystem services concept. No policies provided details on operational aspects, including ecosystem services assessment, the decision-making process and scales of implementation. Different specific forest- and tree-based ecosystem services were not identified clearly in any current policy. All policies reviewed explicitly mentioned regulating services (i.e. carbon sequestration and water regulation) more often than provisioning and cultural services. Given this, we recommend that the current policies should consider ecosystem services-based management goals and decision-making in order to maximise the local benefits of forests and trees in the contexts of diverse social-ecological systems. Different specific forest- and tree-based ecosystem services should be clearly identified in the current forestry and other natural resource management policies in order to enhance the synergy between forests and competing land management practices.

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