Choice experiment assessment of public preferences for forest structural attributes.
The objectives of forest policy have been broadened from tangible products, such as wood and fiber, to ecosystem services. This broadening emphasizes the need to also estimate the value of biodiversity and the social benefits of tourism and recreation. While research on the species' requirements has a long history, the issue of which habitat humans select to engage in tourism and recreation lags behind. In both cases, a major challenge is to consider the complete range of forest structure from a managed to a natural dynamic. Combining the approach used in landscape research with non-market valuation techniques, the aim of this study is to document human habitat selection for recreational purposes in a gradient of forest naturalness. The results indicate that respondents prefer older stands with vertical layering, irregularly spaced trees and a greater number of tree species. Our study thus indicates that forests that are managed (or left unmanaged) for biodiversity purposes are also likely to be attractive to humans. To conclude, while greater management intensity was associated with higher disutility regardless of the model employed, we do not perceive a risk of conflict between forest management designed to protect biodiversity and management targeting recreational value. Consequently, there is a need for spatially differentiated forest management that discriminates among different functions. The state ownership of all larger Polish forest massifs makes this zoning approach feasible.