A study quantifying ecosystem services – closer to home.

The BioHolz project aims to quantify biodiversity and ecosystem services of forests to support the implementation of the German National Biodiversity Strategy. The biodiversity strategy thus provides a starting point for the development of applied research questions for interdisciplinary as well as transdisciplinary work.

While a lot of the focus is on ecology and the impact of human actions on plants and animals this itself is impacted by human decision making on a microeconomic level on how to use natural spaces either for recreation of for economic activity and resources. In turn these decisions are impacted at a macro level by government policy, guidelines and funding.

Investigating this led the research team towards a discrete choice experiment, with a subproject titled ‘Perception and valuation of ecosystem services derived from forests’ in which questionnaire surveys as well as indirect methods to obtain information on preferences for certain structural characteristics of forests are investigated.

Engage with your Local Forest

With this aim, the project team built a survey to capture individuals choices relating to changes in a forest area they are familiar with.

To bring this decision to life SurveyEngine integrated a custom map tool to elicit spatial data on respondents’ location and recreational habits. Additionally, an interactive selector was used to construct the status quo alternative based on the most recent visit to a forest. The DCE aimed to observe the willingness of individuals to pay for conservation methods that would change the shape of the forest and the biodiversity of the area in the future.

Understanding Natures Value

Data analysis proved that most respondents were aware of the values of biodiversity as an essential ecosystem service and thus were willing to pay for new forest management measures that aim at biodiversity protection. They also stated a preference for recreation in more natural looking forests with structural variety. This study has informed the project about how individuals interact with their local forested areas. The next phase of the project will involve expert respondents familiar with the local ecosystems and related policies.

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