Viability of Introducing Payments for the Collection of Wild Forest Mushrooms in Catalonia (North-East Spain)


Wild mushrooms are among the most valuable non-wood forest products in the world, and mushroom picking activities are well developed in many countries. Recent studies have demonstrated important links between forest management options and the productivity of mushrooms. Furthermore, there is evidence that the optimal forest management oriented at maximizing joint revenues from timber and mushrooms can lead to higher profits than the traditional timber-oriented management. The precondition for such management, however, is that forest owners derive benefits from mushrooms produced in their forests. In this paper, we discuss the feasibility of implementing payments for mushroom harvesting in Catalonia, North East Spain. As in many other European regions, mushroom picking in Catalonia is a long-standing tradition, which has been practiced with negligible limitations for centuries. The rising popularity of this activity in the last decades, however, has caused forest owners to voice concerns about the sustainability of this activity and about the impact it has on the private forest property. We document the results of a public opinion survey and contrast them with the issues emergent from forest owners’ interviews about the regulation of mushroom picking activities. Our results show that mushroom pickers support the idea of introducing payments for mushroom harvesting. Based on the survey and interview results, we also discuss the design aspects of payments for mushroom picking and articulate the key issues in their implementation.

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  1. 1.

    For example, for 11 years, from 2004 to 2014, during each WM season the main TV channel of Catalonia aired a popular TV show Caçadors de Bolets [Mushroom hunters], which addressed WM picking from different angles (local traditions, culinary knowledge, mycological information), and numerous articles have been published in regional newspapers about WM picking.

  2. 2.

    At local level, only three initiatives for mushroom regulation exist, namely in Poblet, Val d’Aran and Alins.

  3. 3.

    Or ca. 2 M€, using an average price of 4 €/kg based on Bonet et al. (2014).

  4. 4.

    See supplementary material for representativeness information.

  5. 5.

    No specific forest management prescription was given to respondents.

  6. 6.

    The period of 3 months has been chosen to ensure the reliability of the reported numbers of visits.

  7. 7.

    This division of the respondents may be slightly biased, as it may be possible that among the people who have not visited forests in the three months prior to the survey, there are mushroom pickers, especially considering that these months (April–June) are not the typical mushroom season.

  8. 8.

    E.g. a mycological association.

  9. 9.

    Such regulations have recently been introduced in the Autonomous Communities of Aragón and La Rioja (BOA 2014; BOR 2015).

  10. 10.

    The regulation in the neighbouring region of Aragón establishes a similar portfolio of legal modalities for landowners (BOA 2014).

  11. 11.

    For example, the regulation in Aragón establishes WM harvesting for sporadic purposes (own consumption, not for sale) as a default option, which does not require any signposting. All other modalities require specific actions on behalf of forest owners (BOA 2014).

  12. 12.

    Public or private forest guards, see section “The role of the intermediary actors”.

  13. 13.

  14. 14.

    Similar structure is already operational in game hunting, see Hunting Law (BOE 1970).

  15. 15.

    Art. 234 of the Penal Code (BOE 1995).


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The survey and interviews were conducted within the NEWFOREX project (New ways to value and market forest externalities), financed by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (contract number 243950). We also would like to thank two anonymous reviewers, whose helpful and detailed comments have helped improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Irina Prokofieva.

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Prokofieva, I., Górriz-Mifsud, E., Bonet, JA. et al. Viability of Introducing Payments for the Collection of Wild Forest Mushrooms in Catalonia (North-East Spain). Small-scale Forestry 16, 147–167 (2017).

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  • Harvesting fees
  • Public opinion survey
  • Forest owners
  • Policy instrument design
  • Non-wood forest products