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Who cares about forests and why?: individual values attributed to forests in a post-frontier region in Amazonia

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Article numbere0167691
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/12/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>PLoS ONE
Issue number12
Number of pages18
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Understanding the multiple ways people value forests is important, as individual values regarding nature have been shown to partly determine willingness to participate in conservation initiatives. As individual values are influenced by past experiences, the way people value forests may be related to the ecosystem services they use and receive. We here aim to investigate if people value forests because of material and non-material benefits forest provide (material and non-material values), and if these values are defined by previous experiences associated with using forest resources and having frequent contact with forests. By interviewing 363 residents across 20 landscapes varying in forest cover in a post-frontier region in Amazonia, we evaluated: (1) if the use of forest resources—especially bushmeat, important for sustenance and cash income in virtually all tropical forests—is associated with attributing higher material value to forests; (2) whether the contact with forest (estimated by local forest cover and visits to forests) is associated with attributing higher non-material value to forests. As expected, respondents from households where hunting occurs and bushmeat consumption is more frequent attributed higher material value to forests, and those living in more deforested landscapes and that visited forests less often attributed lower non-material value to forests. The importance of bushmeat in shaping the way people value forests suggests that encouraging the sustainable use of this product will encourage forest conservation. Results also point to a potential dangerous reinforcing cycle: low forest cover and the loss of contact with forests may erode forest values and facilitate further deforestation. Engaging rural communities in forest conservation initiatives is challenging yet urgent in degraded landscapes, although harnessing appreciation for bushmeat could offer a starting point.