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Balancing wood market demand and common property rights: a case study of a community in the Italian Alps

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Journal of Forest Research


Common property rights have a long tradition in the Italian Alps, dating back to the Middle Ages, when alpine village communities managed common forests. On these properties, in accordance with rules aimed at regulating the collective use of resources, shareholders have the right of common use of the land. As many mountainous areas still rely on firewood for the heating of homes, the right to gather firewood from common forests is the most important common property right. In the last few decades, renewable bio-energy production based on forest woody biomass has undergone significant development. In Italy, in communities where the right to gather wood still has economic, social, and cultural relevance, decision makers and community members have a different vision about the use of firewood. This paper focuses on this issue by presenting a case study located in the Italian Eastern Alps, characterised by a historical tradition of common property management. In order to define the optimal strategy to manage the common forests, taking into consideration the local community’s needs, a semi-structured questionnaire was submitted to the administrators of the common forests and to the shareholders. Different scenarios of wood use were developed to support managers and decision makers in identifying on-going trends in firewood demand. The results show that the economic scenario for the development of the bio-energy supply chain cannot be reconciled with the historical tradition and social needs.

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This work is a part of the BIOMASFOR project co-funded by CARITRO Foundation through the Grant No. 101. The authors wish to acknowledge CARITRO as well as BIOMASFOR project partners, for their contribution to the research.

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Correspondence to Isabella De Meo.

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Paletto, A., De Meo, I., Cantiani, M.G. et al. Balancing wood market demand and common property rights: a case study of a community in the Italian Alps. J For Res 19, 417–426 (2014).

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