Stakeholders' Preferences and Economic Value of Forest Ecosystem Services: an Example in the Italian Alps
De Meo I
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Alpine forest environments provide a wide range of ecosystem services essential for human life and well-being. Albeit the benefits they yield, ecosystem services' value is often underestimated because it is not reflected in a market price. Ecosystem services generate very high economic, ecological and social values largely enjoyed by the stakeholders, who live in their surroundings. Hence, stakeholders' preferences for both marketable and non-marketable ecosystem services, as well as the possible relationships between stakeholders' preferences and the economic value of ecosystem services should be broadly investigated to provide better informed and more effective natural resources management. Based on these considerations, the present contribution assesses the economic value of bundle of forest ecosystem services (timber and fuelwood production, carbon sequestration, natural hazards protection, recreation including hunting) and stakeholders' perceived importance of ecosystem services in a case study in the Italian Alps (Valle di Non, Province of Trento). At first, economic value of the ecosystem services is estimated using different environmental valuation techniques (market price, replacement cost method and benefit transfer method). Secondly, stakeholders' preferences on ecosystem services were assessed by using a semi-structured questionnaire. Finally, the ranking of the ecosystem services values and the stakeholders' preferences were compared in order to underline the differences between the perceived importance and the estimated economic value. The results showed that the ecosystem services with the highest economic values were natural hazards protection (103.6 (sic)/ha/year), timber production (78.4 (sic)/ha/year) and recreation in forests (70.8 (sic)/ha/year), while the regulating ecosystem services (natural hazards protection and carbon sequestration) were perceived as the most important. No statistically significant relationship was obtained in the comparison between the economic value and the perceived importance of the forest ecosystem services. Furthermore, many non-tangible and non-marketable ecosystem services (e.g. natural hazards protection and recreation in forests), often neglected during the implementation of forest management plans, were highly perceived by the stakeholders and at the same time economically valuable.