Natural disturbances and natural hazards in mountain forests: a framework for the economic valuation
This paper focuses on the economic aspects of the protective role of forests against natural hazards, developing an estimation methodology applicable on a local scale. We identified the main variables that influence on a local level those forest attributes involved directly or indirectly in protection with the aim of zoning forests in homogeneous areas in terms of the level of protection they offer. Applying the replacement cost method a monetary value of the protective function can be estimated for homogeneous zones. The zoning permits the cost of replacement works to be calculated precisely according to the characteristics of the territory in each zone. The methodology was tested in the province of Trento (North East Italy) in an area where forests serve multiple functions and where the social objectives are intimately linked to those of indirect protection of the mountain slopes and direct protection of human activities. The estimation of the protective function of mountain forests enables environmental concerns to be included in economic decision-making by integrating economic and ecological approaches. It could be useful as a criterion for ranking different forest management options, i.e. forest management approaches based on the principle of close-to-nature forestry with management forms that focus on the productive function of forests. Accordingly it could enable forest managers to build consensus around management forms that take into account natural hazards and natural disturbances.
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