Category 1: Economics and socio-economics of forest and nature – Københavns Universitet

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Category 1: Economics and socio-economics of forest and nature

CATEGORY 1 RESEARCH TOPICS 

1.1     Inside the household who generates and spends environmental income?

1.2     International cooperation on biodiversity and ecosystem service protection

1.3     Modelling forest recreation does choice set composition matter

1.4     How does biodiversity contribute to the cultural services provided by forests?

1.5     Valorisation of forest landscapes by community based ecotourism

1.6     Social capital for forest and tree management

1.7     Woody biomass from forests: Demand, supply and related problems
of sustainability

1.1 Inside the household who generates and spends environmental income?
A string of recent studies have documented that income from environmental products, harvested in non-cultivated habitats including forests and rangelands, constitutes a major source of income for rural households in forested landscapes throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. However, our knowledge of intra-household characteristics and factors is very limited, impeding our understanding of the relationships between people, poverty and natural resources. Key research questions include: Who in the household generates what type (cash, subsistence) of environmental income from what range of habitats? What labour and other inputs are required? Who decides how environmental income is spent? What are the consequences for individual welfare in the household? How do these factors vary across households and populations? Applicants should address these questions across a number of rural sites using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods including structured household surveys.
Principal supervisor at University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor at Dresden University of Technology

1.2 International cooperation on biodiversity and ecosystem service protection
The rapid loss of species, degradation of forest and other natural ecosystems and the concomitant loss of their services threaten human societies. Our ability to develop efficient strategies for selecting areas for protection, managing these, and monitoring the status of biodiversity and ecosystem services has increased. However, our scientific understanding of how human behaviour and decision making affects suitable policy responses to manage global biodiversity has lagged. We have insufficient knowledge of how the human perception of biodiversity and ecosystem service values varies with geographical scale, history, culture and context. One of this centurys largest political challenges is to find ways to tackle the challenge of undertaking highly needed internationally coordinated efforts to preserve and provide public goods (like biodiversity conservation, but also climate change mitigation), while coping with the potential challenge that local tax payers may prefer local investments over international support and coordination. Combining socio-economic data, biological data, and experimental economics, this project contributes to answering the following overall questions: 1) How does willingness to support international conservation relate to the spatial and temporal distribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services? and 2) How do cultural similarity, trust, and policy mechanisms affect cooperation.
Principal supervisor at University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor at Bangor University

1.3 Modelling forest recreation does choice set composition matter?
Description: Recreational benefits represent a substantial part of the total economic value of forests in modern societies and vary depending on visitor types and environmental attributes. However, little is known as to where people choose to go when they have several substitutes. This knowledge is of importance for managing multifunctional forest. This project will be based on behavioural choice research where an unresolved debate deals with choice set formation, which focuses on how to correctly account for all sites included in the set of alternatives from which forest visitors select destinations. Studies have shown that when there is a large number of destination sites, visitors may use a variety of heuristics to narrow down their set of alternatives using some specific criteria. Key research questions are: (i) what are the best methodological approaches to deal with choice set formation and modelling within forest sites? (ii) to what extent do different approaches dealing with choice set formation affect estimates of outdoor demand functions and welfare change from environmental quality changes in forest sites? Existing data can be used as well as data collected in the project, in the form of either travel cost or stated choice data. Experience in choice modeling is an advantage.
Principal supervisor at University of Copenhagen
Co-supervisor at Bangor University

1.4 How does biodiversity contribute to the cultural services provided by forests?
It is increasingly recognised that society gets many benefits from ecosystems. Biodiversity in its broadest sense clearly underpins the supply of these ecosystem services as without biodiversity there would be no functioning ecosystems. However in a world where anthropogenic activities are resulting in loss of biodiversity at unprecedented levels, a much better understanding of the complex linkages between changes in biodiversity and human welfare is urgently needed. The importance of cultural services is increasingly recognised as evidence mounts that people value nature highly, that exposure to natural areas impacts wellbeing and that recreation in natural areas is important to mental and physical health. However, the extent to which biodiversity, rather than other environmental variables, influence the cultural services provided by ecosystems such as forests is poorly known. This project will include field work in at least three countries (possibly including the UK, Denmark, Madagascar, Bangladesh or Mauritius). Field work (involving choice experiments, analysis of national geographical data sets on biodiversity and cultural services, and semi-structured interviews) will aim to answer the following questions: 1) To what extent do various aspects of biodiversity influence the cultural services people obtain from forests? 2) How do these patterns vary with cultural background? 3) How is this affected by knowledge about biodiversity?
Principal supervisor at Bangor University
Co-supervisor at University of Copenhagen

1.5 Valorisation of forest landscapes by community based ecotourism
Urbanization and globalization create a strong demand of intensified contacts to nature and local cultures. Ecotourism and environmental education are relevant instruments to support this process. From a landscape management perspective ecotourism may work as an environmental service and facilitate financial returns to nature and forest dependent households and communities. Despite a number of positive experiences in community based ecotourism worldwide, there is still the challenge to adequately organize local communities and other involved stakeholders and to develop and implement sustainable strategies. After defining ecotourism on the basis of different standards developed so far and deriving criteria for sustainable community based ecotourism, case studies will be selected. Important criteria and respective research question are focused on a successful community organization, social capital, the financial contribution of ecotourism to rural families, communities and to rural development in general, as well as benefit sharing mechanisms. Impacts of community based ecotourism will be investigated in a broad sense, including limits in the carrying capacity. Possible is the integration of field research in existing research structures in the Andean region or in East Africa. Main outcome will be a model on sustainable community based ecotourism as a fundament for further research and practice, including monitoring and certification mechanisms.
Principal supervisor at Dresden University of Technology
Co-supervisor at University of Padova

1.6 Social capital for forest and tree management
Importance of trees and forests is increasing globally. Livelihood needs of a growing population as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation require the integration of more trees and forests in landscapes. In addition, the complexity of socio-ecological systems is rising. Respective management strategies need to be based not alone on markets, but also on collective decision making. The creation of social capital is essential to cope with the increasing vulnerability of ecosystems and for their proper management. This has to follow criteria like congruence between benefits and cost and flexibility. The research deals with standards and processes for the creation and use of social capital, indicators to measure social capital and its efficiency and best practices. The empirical work will be based on case study research including formal and informal institutions and respective analytical generalization. The studies will preferentially be conducted within on-going research project areas on climate change adaptation. These are the southern Andean and the Chaco region in Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay and Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania in East Africa. 
Principal supervisor at Dresden University of Technology
Co-supervisor at University of Padova

1.7 Woody biomass from forests: Demand, supply and related problems of sustainability
The demand for bioenergy has been steadily increasing in the last years as a consequence of different factors, especially prices development for conventional fuels and attempts to combat climate change. In the future the demand for bio-energy will probably grow as a consequence of the decisions taken by different public institutions on sub-national, national and supranational/regional level. For the first time, also in Europe, a problem of relative scarcity of wood has been predicted. An indicator of a growing problem of competition between the users of biomass for energy and alternative users is the complaint by the European panel industry about the unfair competition in the rough material market between a (subsidized) bioenergy industry and the panel industry. On the other hand, new techniques are in discussion to increase the supply of woody biomass from existing forests (e.g. intensification of thinning, increased use of wooden residues, nurse crops for energy) or from areas outside forests (e.g. short-rotation coppice, landscape care wood). Within the proposed topic, research issues should focus at a cross-country comparative analysis of the socio-economic framework for the provision of woody biomass from forests, and agroforestry including prediction models, production costs, land opportunity costs, public financial support and profitability for private investors.
Principal supervisor at University of Padova
Co-supervisor at Dresden University of Technology