Socio-cultural and economic valuation of ecosystem services provided by Mediterranean mountain agroecosystems

PLoS One. 2014 Jul 18;9(7):e102479. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102479. eCollection 2014.


The aim of this work was to elucidate the socio-cultural and economic value of a number of ecosystem services delivered by mountain agroecosystems (mostly grazing systems) in Euro-Mediterranean regions. We combined deliberative (focus groups) and survey-based stated-preference methods (choice modelling) to, first, identify the perceptions of farmers and other citizens on the most important ecosystem services and, second, to value these in economic terms according to the willingness to pay of the local (residents of the study area) and general (region where the study area is located) populations. Cultural services (particularly the aesthetic and recreational values of the landscape), supporting services (biodiversity maintenance) and some regulating services (particularly fire risk prevention) were clearly recognized by both farmers and citizens, with different degrees of importance according to their particular interests and objectives. The prevention of forest fires (≈50% of total willingness to pay) was valued by the general population as a key ecosystem service delivered by these agroecosystems, followed by the production of specific quality products linked to the territory (≈20%), biodiversity (≈20%) and cultural landscapes (≈10%). The value given by local residents to the last two ecosystem services differed considerably (≈10 and 25% for biodiversity and cultural landscape, respectively). The Total Economic Value of mountain agroecosystems was ≈120 € person(-1) year(-1), three times the current level of support of agro-environmental policies. By targeting and quantifying the environmental objectives of the European agri-environmental policy and compensating farmers for the public goods they deliver, the so-called "green" subsidies may become true Payments for Ecosystems Services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture* / economics
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources* / methods
  • Culture
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Policy*
  • Farmers / psychology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mediterranean Region
  • Parks, Recreational* / economics
  • Program Evaluation
  • Public Opinion
  • Recreation
  • Rural Population
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Grant support

The research was funded by: Marie Curie FP7-PEOPLE-2011 IEF, Contract no. 299794 (European Commission) and INIA-RTA2011-00133-C02-02 (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Government of Aragón and FEDER). TR-O and RR-B acknowledge the doctoral financial support of INIA. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.