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Preferences of Local People for the Use of Peatlands: the Case of the Richest Peatland Region in Finland

Anne Tolvanen, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Finland; Thule Institute, University of Oulu, Finland
Artti Juutinen, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Finland; Thule Institute, University of Oulu, Finland; Department of Economics, University of Oulu, Finland
Rauli Svento, Department of Economics, University of Oulu, Finland

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05496-180219

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Abstract

We analyze the potential for socioeconomically sustainable peatland use by investigating conflicting interests, revealing trade-offs that people are willing to accept, and studying whether opinions are dependent on socioeconomic and demographic factors. Opinions toward five forms of peatland use and seven peatland ecosystem services were surveyed in Northern Ostrobothnia in northern Finland in 2011. Choice experiment (CE) was used to reveal trade-offs in land use preferences, and groups of respondents were identified using the latent class model (LCM). We identified three classes of respondents in which environmentalists showed a high preference toward the cessation of peat production and increase of peatland restoration, the production-oriented class preferred an increase in timber and peat production areas, and the current use supporters agreed on the present land use policy. However, all respondent classes agreed on the increase of nature protection and the present level of timber production and disagreed on the cessation of restoration. The CE revealed that environmentally minded people who are likely to consider the indirect use values and existence values important are less willing to make trade-offs between ecosystem services than those who emphasize direct use values. Because peatland restoration occurs in commercially unproductive peatlands, it improves both the direct use and existence values without reducing provisioning services of peatlands. Therefore, restoration is commonly accepted by the public, in contrast to management options that involve clear trade-offs between ecosystem services. We conclude that the understanding of preferences and trade-offs can enhance sustainable land use planning. It may be unrealistic, however, to expect a solution that all interest groups would completely accept.

Key words

choice experiment; conflict management; ecosystem services; land use management
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087