Revealing lay people's perceptions of forest biodiversity value components and their application in valuation method

Valuation studies about environmental goods, e.g. biodiversity, often use characteristics and indicators that seem ecologically sound. But ecological value and public value are not necessarily the same. Therefore, combining ecological indicators with public knowledge and language in framing valuation studies may improve the consistency of outcomes. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, we investigated lay people’s mental constructs about biodiversity and attitudes to biodiversity management. Applying a coding strategy for analysing data from individual interviews and group discussions revealed that ‘diversity of animals and plants’, ‘natural appearance and dynamics of ecosystem’, and ‘peace and quietness’ were the attributes of forest ecosystems most frequently mentioned by lay people. In addition, it was found that regardless of familiarity with the various ecological scientific terminologies, lay people had an intuitive understanding of ecological concepts such as biodiversity. The analyses demonstrated that individuals’ perceptions and values of biodiversity could be framed in two interlinking categories: (i) as a good in itself, and (ii) its regulatory function. It was also revealed that individuals’ attitudes towards forests and their biodiversity may be rooted in their mental constructs and can be useful in targeting policy and conservation management.