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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Perceived importance of ecosystem services in the Bialowieza Forest for local communities - Does proximity matter?

Mikusinski, Grzegorz; Niedzialkowski, Krzysztof


Effective protection of biodiversity in areas of high conservation value requires trade-offs between local use of natural resources and conservation restrictions. The compromise is often difficult to reach, which causes conflicts over the management priorities of existing and potential protected areas. Ecosystem services (ES) perspective offers a promising avenue for diagnosing and reconciling contrasting interests concerning the use of benefits from ecosystems. We examined how the spatial proximity to the Bialowiea Forest (BF), a European biodiversity hotspot, affects the perceived use of ES by local communities. We performed a survey among 719 respondents from 35 villages situated within BF and in its vicinity. We found that both the declared use of ES and the perceived influence of ES on household's economy was declining with the distance from BF with particularly high differences between areas not further than 3 km from BF and areas located 3-15 km from BF. Different zones varied in terms of benefits from tourism and costs connected with a potential limited access to ES due to conservation. Broadening the perspective, we argue that the trade-offs linked to ES may vary depending on the location in relation to the protected area and that local communities should not be treated as a homogenous group when considering benefits from the forest. Awareness of common patterns of ES use over space and local specificity may enhance effective management of even highly contested conservation areas.


Ecosystem services; Local resource use; Management; Perceptions; Planning; Zoning; Biodiversity conservation; Protected areas; Spatial analysis; Conservation; Tourism; National park; Natura 2000

Published in

Land Use Policy
2020, Volume: 97, article number: 104667

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities

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