Effective protection of biodiversity in areas of high conservation value requires trade-offs between local use of natural resources and conservation restrictions. The compromise is often difficult to reach, which causes conflicts over the management priorities of existing and potential protected areas. Ecosystem services (ES) perspective offers a promising avenue for diagnosing and reconciling contrasting interests concerning the use of benefits from ecosystems. We examined how the spatial proximity to the Białowieża Forest (BF), a European biodiversity hotspot, affects the perceived use of ES by local communities. We performed a survey among 719 respondents from 35 villages situated within BF and in its vicinity. We found that both the declared use of ES and the perceived influence of ES on household’s economy was declining with the distance from BF with particularly high differences between areas not further than 3 km from BF and areas located 3-15 km from BF. Different zones varied in terms of benefits from tourism and costs connected with a potential limited access to ES due to conservation. Broadening the perspective, we argue that the trade-offs linked to ES may vary depending on the location in relation to the protected area and that local communities should not be treated as a homogenous group when considering benefits from the forest. Awareness of common patterns of ES use over space and local specificity may enhance effective management of even highly contested conservation areas.
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Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.
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