How farmers feel about trees: Perceptions of ecosystem services and disservices associated with rural forests in southwestern France
Blanco, J., Sourdril, A., Deconchat, M., Barnaud, C., San Cristobal, M., Andrieu, E. (2020). Ecosystem Services, 42 (Avril), Online.
DOI : 10.1016/j.ecoser.2020.101066
Rural forests, including the wooded areas primarily managed by farmers (e.g. farm forests, hedgerows, isolated trees), are critical for the sustainability of agricultural landscapes. Yet with agricultural industrialization, rural forests have been in decline in many regions across Europe. To reverse this trend and promote the sustainable use of farmland, ‘greening’ measures have been introduced by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in recent years. However, their effectiveness depends on local farmers’ values and reaction to these measures. In this study, we investigated the socio-cultural value accorded to rural forests in southwestern France by interviewing 19 farmers. The positive and negative contributions cited were categorized as ecosystem services/disservices and analyzed using qualitative and quantitative methods. The results indicate that farmers in this region have mixed views, as they cited 32 positive and 25 negative contributions (material and non-material) of rural forests. They felt trees provide services (e.g. erosion control, windbreak) and disservices to agriculture (e.g. decline in yield, damage to tractors and infrastructures). Depending on their farming practices, farmers had contrasting opinions on how to reconcile rural forests and agriculture. Our results suggest that CAP greening measures need to better target rural forest conservation and further adapt to local contexts.