Socio-cultural and economic valuation of ecosystem services provided by Mediterranean mountain agroecosystems
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonPLoS ONE 2014, 9(7) 10.1371/journal.pone.0102479
The aim of this work was to elucidate the socio-cultural and economic value of a number of ecosystem services delivered by mountain agroecosystems (mostly grazing systems) in Euro-Mediterranean regions. We combined deliberative (focus groups) and survey-based stated-preference methods (choice modelling) to, first, identify the perceptions of farmers and other citizens on the most important ecosystem services and, second, to value these in economic terms according to the willingness to pay of the local (residents of the study area) and general (region where the study area is located) populations. Cultural services (particularly the aesthetic and recreational values of the landscape), supporting services (biodiversity maintenance) and some regulating services (particularly fire risk prevention) were clearly recognized by both farmers and citizens, with different degrees of importance according to their particular interests and objectives. The prevention of forest fires (≈50% of total willingness to pay) was valued by the general population as a key ecosystem service delivered by these agroecosystems, followed by the production of specific quality products linked to the territory (≈20%), biodiversity (≈20%) and cultural landscapes (≈10%). The value given by local residents to the last two ecosystem services differed considerably (≈10 and 25% for biodiversity and cultural landscape, respectively). The Total Economic Value of mountain agroecosystems was ≈120 € person−1 year−1, three times the current level of support of agro-environmental policies. By targeting and quantifying the environmental objectives of the European agri-environmental policy and compensating farmers for the public goods they deliver, the so-called “green” subsidies may become true Payments for Ecosystems Services.