Assessment of resin tapping in pine forests of Castilla y León considering social and environmental values
Resin tapping was an important source of employment and income for many years in the rural environment of Castilla y León. In the 1990s, this activity was abandoned for different reasons, including the emergence of similar products on the market (Pinus massoniana resin) from China, with the consequent drop in prices of the national product. The decline of this sector led to the abandonment of traditional forestry activities and the loss of associated ecosystem services, as well as the abandonment of the rural environment. These ecosystem services have not traditionally been valued in monetary terms because they lack a market, although they are known to report a series of values appreciated by society. An assessment of different ecosystem services associated with resin tapping is given below.
The pine forests on the sandy plains of inner Spain represent a singular habitat and ecosystem in very poor site conditions. In addition to economic revenue from sustainable biological resources, resin tapping provides other ecological and social benefits from these forests. The present study, resulting from the SUDOE project SustForest, analyses the inclusion of these factors in the assessment of resin resources.
Several of the most important ecosystem services associated with resin tapped pine forests were analysed: biodiversity, fire risk reduction, employment generated by the development of the resin supply chain, and sustainable forest management certification for natural resin products. The biodiversity of these pine forests was assessed by their floristic diversity. In order to estimate social-type ecosystem services, discrete choice methods were used to simulate markets in which trade-offs of environmental goods and services occur. Thus, the preferences of the inhabitants of the region were quantified in relation to different attributes (the chosen economic and social ecosystem services) associated with resin tapping in Castilla y León. The results show that most of society acknowledges forest fire risk reduction associated with the presence of resin tappers in the forest. In addition, resin tapping was recognised as a profitable economic activity and source of rural employment. Biodiversity is valued, although to a lesser extent than the added value provided by certification, rural employment, or reduced fire risk.
The results of this study reveal the positive effect of resin-tapping related ecosystem services for society. If these benefits were paid for, it would contribute to guaranteeing the profitability of the resin sector and mitigate dependence on market cycles. In contrast, the loss of these positive effects due to the hypothetical abandonment of this use would amount to more than 200 million euros; hence, support through payment for ecosystem services would also entail a lower cost to society.
Impacts and weaknesses
The results of this study, and similar ones, could be used for the design of a program of payments for environmental services that could be implemented in different ways: payments to the resin tappers, the local councils and/or companies that hired resin tappers, always looking for the way that these payments result in the improvement of the conditions of the resin tapper. In any case, it would be necessary to avoid the negative effects that could be derived, for example, that a new equilibrium situation is reached where intermediaries and/or forest owners can capture the benefits, reduction in the price of the resin, etc.
The results of this and other similar studies, could provide the basis for the design of a program of payments for environmental services that could be implemented in different ways: payments to resin tappers, local councils and/or companies hiring resin tappers, always ensuring that these payments lead to improvements in the conditions of resin tappers. In any case, it would be necessary to avoid possible negative effects that may arise on reaching a new equilibrium situation, whereby intermediaries and/or forest owners reap the benefits, reduction in the price of the resin, etc.