A social assessment of forest resource based on stakeholders’ perception: an application in three Balkans rural areas
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Abstract: An inclusive and transparent participatory process in the Balkan region can facilitate information’s exchange between decision-makers and local community, and increase social acceptance of forest management outcomes. The study – developed in the “FOR Balkans” project – has two main objectives: stakeholders’ engagement in forest management scenarios’ development and implementation of a Spatial Decision Support System to enhance sustainable and multifunctional forest management. To achieve them, a face-to-face questionnaire survey was conducted in three study areas in the Balkans: Shkrel district (Albania), Rugova valley (Kosovo), Knjaževac municipality (Serbia). The questionnaire – provided as a digital application – was administered to a sample of stakeholders in each study area. Stakeholders’ opinions towards ecosystem services and forest management practices were investigated. Results show that in Rugova provisioning services are the most important ecosystem services, that can be enhanced through a greater use of wood residues for energy purposes. In Shkrel, stakeholders consider supporting services as the most important category of ecosystem services that they can be maintained and improved through the implementation of sanitary fellings. In Knjaževac, stakeholders emphasize cultural services’ importance, which can be enhanced by promoting mixed forests and improving recreational facilities.