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Social preferences towards ecosystem services provided by cloud forests in the neotropics: implications for conservation strategies

Abstract

Despite the importance of neotropical cloud forests as providers of ecosystem services to society, they are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. We analysed the importance of three cloud forest reserves in central Colombia as providers of ecosystem services, as well as the social support to conservation actions in these ecosystems through willingness to pay (WTP) and willingness to give up time (WTT) estimates. Our results highlight the high commitment of all users of the cloud forest areas towards the conservation of the ecosystem services provided by these strategic ecosystems. We found that the most important perceived ecosystem services were water supply and habitat maintenance for species. Our findings also suggest that the respondents’ ecological knowledge (measured as the awareness of the ecosystem services supplied by cloud forests) was an important factor in determining both WTP and WTT for conserving cloud forests. Moreover, our results indicate that WTT should be a viable technique to explore individual preferences of different stakeholders towards conservation activities in cloud forests. Based on our results, we propose a conservation strategy of cloud forests that considers different users’ socio-economic and environmental characteristics, in which both experimental and experiential knowledge should be incorporated in order to promote collective action.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Macanal Forest Reserve, Chicaque Natural Park and San Jose Reserve (Pedro Palo), and the resident population of the Chicaque Village, The Leisure and Monte Redondo. We also thank Marina García-Llorente for inspiring ideas about WTT as vehicle payment and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on early version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Diego Higuera or Berta Martín-López.

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Higuera, D., Martín-López, B. & Sánchez-Jabba, A. Social preferences towards ecosystem services provided by cloud forests in the neotropics: implications for conservation strategies. Reg Environ Change 13, 861–872 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-012-0379-1

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Keywords

  • Cloud forests
  • Ecosystem services
  • Tropical Andes
  • Willingness to give up time
  • Willingness to pay