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Incorporating economic valuation into fire prevention planning and management in Southern European countries

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Aim of study: This article describes and analyzes the links between the fire-based scientific knowledge, the social perception of fire prevention and forest fires and the economic valuation requirements to assess social preferences for fire prevention measures. Area of study: Southern European countries. Material and Methods: For that purpose, we develop a critical revision of the existing literature on economic valuation of social preferences for fire risk reduction and fire prevention in terms of its links with fire science and social perceptions and the applicability of these results in fire management policies. Research highlights: The assessment of social preferences for fire related issues is challenging due to the difficulty of setting sound valuation scenarios that can simultaneously be relevant for the respondents and derive conclusions useful for fire management. Most of the revised studies set up valuation scenarios focused on the final management outcome e.g. number of burnt hectares, what is easier for the respondents to evaluate but weakens the scientific relationship with fire management, making difficult reaching conclusions for sound management advice. A more recent set of valuation studies has been developed where risk perception of homeowners is further assessed as a key variable determining their preferences in valuation scenarios. These studies are relevant for mangers setting fire prevention programs in wildland urban interface areas as understanding the factors that may promote or hinder the enrolment of these homeowners in fire prevention activities may have direct implication in addressing communication programs to promote fire prevention management.
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Forest Systems
24(2), e026, 9 pages (2015)
eISSN: 2171-9845
http://dx.doi.org/10.5424/fs/2015242-06449
Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA)
RESEARCH ARTICLE
OPEN ACCESS
ing fire prevention strategies. However, these aspects
are usually overlooked in the development of fire
management plans. Improving the knowledge on these
social preferences can contribute to filling this gap and
promote the discussion on this topic that is largely
absent, hopefully leading to more efficient and balanced
debates on forest management policies (Holmes &
Boyle, 2004; Mogas et al., 2006). Economic valuation
methods have been employed in non-Mediterranean
countries as a tool to unveil social preferences for fire
prevention management, allowing to estimate these
social preferences and to evaluate how these are af-
fected by changes in the management.
Incorporating economic valuation into fire prevention planning and
management in Southern European countries
Elsa Varela
1,2,3
and Mario Soliño
4,1
1
Sustainable Forest Management Research Institute, University of Valladolid & INIA, Avda. de Madrid 57, 34004 Palencia, Spain.
2
Forest
Sciences Centre of Catalonia. Ctra. De Sant Llorenç de Morunys, Km.2, 25280 Solsona, Spain.
3
European Forest Institute, Mediterranean
Regional Office, EFIMED. Recinte Històric de Sant Pau. Pavelló de Sant Leopold. St. Antoni M. Claret, 167, 08025 Barcelona, Spain.
4
National
Institute for Agriculture and Food Research and Technology (INIA). Forest Research Centre (CIFOR). Ctra. de la Coruña, km. 7.5,
28040 Madrid, Spain
Abstract
Aim of study: This article describes and analyzes the links between the fire-based scientific knowledge, the social perception of
fire prevention and forest fires and the economic valuation requirements to assess social preferences for fire prevention measures.
Area of study: Southern European countries.
Material and Methods: For that purpose, we develop a critical revision of the existing literature on economic valuation of social
preferences for fire risk reduction and fire prevention in terms of its links with fire science and social perceptions and the applica-
bility of these results in fire management policies.
Research highlights: The assessment of social preferences for fire related issues is challenging due to the difficulty of setting
sound valuation scenarios that can simultaneously be relevant for the respondents and derive conclusions useful for fire manage-
ment. Most of the revised studies set up valuation scenarios focused on the final management outcome e.g. number of burnt hectares,
what is easier for the respondents to evaluate but weakens the scientific relationship with fire management, making difficult reach-
ing conclusions for sound management advice. A more recent set of valuation studies has been developed where risk perception of
homeowners is further assessed as a key variable determining their preferences in valuation scenarios. These studies are relevant
for mangers setting fire prevention programs in wildland urban interface areas as understanding the factors that may promote or
hinder the enrolment of these homeowners in fire prevention activities may have direct implication in addressing communication
programs to promote fire prevention management.
Keywords: fire prevention; fire risk reduction; economic valuation.
Abbreviations:WTP- willingness to pay; CV- contingent valuation; CM- choice modelling.
Citation: Varela, E., Soliño, M. (2015). Incorporating economic valuation into fire prevention planning and management in
southern European countries. Forest Systems, Volume 24, Issue 2, e026, 9 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.5424/fs/2015242-06449.
Received: 24 Jun 2014. Accepted: 13 Jan 2015
Copyright © 2015 INIA. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC by 3.0),
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Funding: The autor(s) received no specic funding for this work.
Competing interests: The author have declared that no competing interests exist.
Correspondence should be addressed to Elsa Varela: elsa.varela.r@gmail.com
Introduction
Every year forest fires in the northern rim of the
Mediterranean attract media attention and debate about
forest management so as to minimize the losses; in
particular when villages and infrastructure are affected
too. The economic figures considered in elaborating
fire prevention management plans usually reflect the
private costs of these practices (e.g. unitary costs of
machinery) while the social costs and benefits of im-
plementing these measures are disregarded. Since these
plans have a social impact, public preferences for fire
management should be taken into account when design-
Elsa Varela and Mario Soliño
Forest Systems August 2015 • Volume 24 • Issue 2 • e026
2
most striking differences between those regions and
these in the Mediterranean area is these millenary his-
tory of intensive and extensive land-use, resulting in
strongly human modified landscapes that far from being
wild (Pausas et al., 2008), became cultural landscapes
(Farina, 2006). Still and despite the socioeconomic
changes that took place in the last decades in the Eu-
ropean countries of the Mediterranean, fire is still
linked to the persistence of traditional agrarian activi-
ties (Costafreda-Aumedes et al., 2013), although the
role of humans in fire danger is still to be clarified
(Moreira et al. 2011). The strategies followed in those
non-Mediterranean countries to reduce megafire oc-
currence are related to restoring pre-settlement fire
regimes (i.e. forest fires regimes previous to the Euro-
pean colonization). The different socio-ecological set-
ting in the northern Mediterranean countries determines
the degree of exportability of these fire management
strategies.
As a response to the fire problem that threatens not
only ecosystems, but also human lives and infrastruc-
tures, southern European countries responded increas-
ing their fire fighting budgets (Xanthopoulos et al.,
2006). However, despite the resources invested in fire
prevention and suppression, the number of fires in
recent decades has continued to increase remarkably
(Moreira et al., 2011). In fact, the reinforced funds on
fire suppression policies observed in Mediterranean
countries (especially after disastrous fire seasons) have
shown their limited ability to remove the risk of major
disasters if not coupled with appropriate fuel manage-
ment strategies (Duguy et al., 2007; Rigolot et al.,
2009; Moreira et al., 2011). Furthermore, forest fire
budgets have never been subjected to an objective and
rigorous economic analysis indicative of the returns on
investments in fire management programs (Rodríguez
y Silva & González-Cabán, 2010).
The prevalence of extreme fire behaviour is how-
ever partly a consequence of effective fire suppression
in the past century and it is nowadays a quite well
known paradox (Pyne, 2001) resulting from fire poli-
cies that are focused in fire suppression and ignore or
assign a minor role to fuel management. The term fuel
management describes any mechanical, silvicultural,
or burning activity whose main objective is to reduce
fuel loadings or change fuel characteristics to lessen
fire behavior or burn severity (Reinhardt et al., 2008).
Examples include mastication (e.g., flailing, chipping,
and breaking), thinning, raking, prescribed fire used
separately or in concert with the mechanical treatments
(Reinhardt et al., 2008). Fuels are the live and dead
surface and canopy biomass that are burnt in wildland
fire.
The Mediterranean is one of the hotspots of biodi-
versity at the global levels that is expected to suffer
from extreme fire events due to climate change (FAO,
2013). However, its socio-ecologic systems and the
underpinning causes of wildfires differ from that of
other fire-prone landscapes. The Mediterranean has
been subject to human presence during millennia, what
makes some fire prevention approaches valid for other
regions not directly transferable.
The objective of this paper is to discuss the chal-
lenges that practitioners may encounter in the design
of economic valuation surveys to estimate the impact
of fire prevention management. These challenges are
discussed in the framework of the existing literature
on economic valuation of forest fires and the lessons
learnt from these studies that may be useful for future
studies to be conducted in the Mediterranean.
Forest fires in Mediterranean
countries
Wildfire has always played a major role in shaping
many of the world ecosystems (Seijo & Gray, 2012),
but fire frequency, extent, and/or severity have in-
creased across the globe in recent decades (Bowman
et al., 2009). Mediterranean forests are recognized as
a hotspot of biodiversity at the global level, providing
a multiplicity of services (FAO, 2013). However, these
services are under risk of degradation, where forest
fires are nowadays the most important threat to Medi-
terranean forest ecosystems (Ministerio de Medio
Ambiente, 1998; Valbuena-Carabaña et al., 2010)
Large wildfires are relatively new in the recent his-
tory of the Mediterranean (Pausas et al., 2008), being
responsible for a significant percentage of the annual
burnt area (Moreira et al., 2011). Their severity and
recurrence surpasses the capacity of these ecosystems
to recover after the fire (Pausas et al., 2008). As a re-
sult, a wide array of ecosystem services’ flow to soci-
ety will be interrupted or diminished due to the exist-
ence of wildfires (Barrio et al., 2007).
The abandonment of farmland areas is assumed to
be one of the main drivers behind the increase of the
annual burnt area in the northern countries of the
Mediterranean (Pausas, 2004; Duguy et al., 2007;
Loepfe et al., 2010). The traditional rural mosaic that
would make a sufficient fuel fragmentation is becoming
scarce. Instead, the buildup of large and continuous
fuelbeds facilitates fire spread (Pausas, 2004, Loepfe et
al., 2010).
Forest fires are also a severe problem in countries
or regions such as the United States or Australia (Ste-
phens & Ruth, 2005; Gill, 2005). However, one of the
Forest Systems August 2015 • Volume 24 • Issue 2 • e026
3
Incorporating economic valuation into re prevention planning and management wetland trees
efits they provide often being lost or degraded (Hol-
mes, 2004).
Economic valuation techniques allow the estimation
in monetary terms of the expected benefits and costs
resulting from the use or enjoyment of an environmen-
tal good or service, from an environmental enhance-
ment or from an environmental damage. This section
presents a revision of valuation studies aiming to in-
corporate social preferences for different aspects re-
lated to the influence of fire events and forest fire
prevention on social preferences. A summary is also
provided in Table 1.
Seminal economic valuation studies on the effects
of forest fires focused on assessing their impact on the
recreational demand function of the citizens (Vaux et
al., 1984). Loomis et al. (2001) examined the temporal
effects of fires on the welfare of recreationists in
Colorado and found that their annual consumer surplus
was much higher after a crown fire than following a
non-crown fire or for the pre-fire forest condition. Hes-
seln et al. (2003) found that recreationists would ex-
perience decreases in annual consumer surplus follow-
ing a fire from the year of the fire to 40 years post fire.
In contrast, Montanan recreationists’ welfare was not
substantially affected by crown or prescribed fire (Hes-
seln et al., 2004). All these studies focus on the out-
comes of forest fires, i.e. the scenarios that they evalu-
ate are ex-post scenarios, in which the event has already
taken place and the respondents are asked to provide
their WTP for different post-fire scenarios.
More recent studies, presented below, have focused
on assessing the WTP of the citizens for the implemen-
tation of preventive measures to protect certain eco-
systems or their own properties from forest fires, i.e.
ex-ante valuation scenarios, also considering both use
and non-use values. Accordingly, contingent valuation
(CV) and choice modelling (CM) techniques are em-
ployed for this purpose. The economic valuation of
programs aimed at preventing forest fire occurrence is
challenging since the surveyed population should be
presented with credible scenarios that would allow for
the desired decrease in fire risk. It contrasts with the
non-predictable nature of forest fires, whose occurrence
relays in probabilistic functions difficult to convey to
the population. The CV or CM studies listed below
address these aspects in different ways. Most of them
present enhanced fire prevention scenarios with an
expected decrease in burnt hectares.
The seminal study by Loomis & González-Cabán
(1994) focused on depicting fire prevention programs
to diminish the incidence of fire. They assessed the
WTP for increased fire prevention in Colorado that
would reduce the number of acres of critical habitat
burnt from 11 square miles to 5.5 square miles. The high
As Reinhardt et al. (2008) state, the primary objec-
tive for treating fuels is to make wildfire more accept-
able (i.e. less severe), rather than to reduce wildfire
extent or make it easier to suppress. Fuel treatments
are therefore intended to help limit wildland fire sizes
and severity by directly mitigating fire behavior and
indirectly by facilitating suppression (Finney, 2001;
Martinson & Omi, 2003). However the promise of fuel
management has lately been loaded with the expecta-
tion of an array of benefits such as reducing suppres-
sion costs or acres burnt and preventing losses that
would need an analysis of how effectively these ben-
efits could be derived from the management action
(Finney & Cohen 2003).
In the Mediterranean, fuel treatments have tradition-
ally been based on forest compartmentalization by fuel
break networks (Rigolot, 2002; Moreira et al., 2011).
These structures are effective stopping low intensity
surface fuels. Contrary to what laypeople may think,
these structures are mainly designed not to stop fires
but to allow suppression forces a higher probability of
successfully attacking a wildland fire (Agee et al.,
2000). These are intended to be safety areas providing
quick access for fire fighters in wildfire suppression
activities, playing an important role in controlling large
fires (Syphard et al., 2011).
Some studies conducted in the Mediterranean show
that forest fires as an environmental problem attract
much attention from the population (IESA/CSIC,
2007). Nevertheless, this high awareness is not coupled
with a good understanding of the fire problem, with
important disparities existing between statistics on for-
est fire causes and citizens’ perception on forest fire
causality (APAS & IDEM, 2004; De Castro et al.,
2007).
The role of economic valuation
in fire prevention planning
Fire management plans developed by public agencies
are mainly based on technical and budget criteria. This
may be the best strategy in so far that the differences
in management are small, technical and not visible to
the general public. However, fire prevention has large
impacts on the visual perception of the landscape, and
wildfires affect many non-market forest goods and
services that are important to society, including air
quality, soil productivity, water quality and quantity,
habitat for native fauna and flora, recreation opportuni-
ties, cultural heritage, and carbon sequestration and
storage (Venn & Calkin, 2011). When these non-market
values are under-recognised, forest management deci-
sions tend to be suboptimal, with forests and the ben-
Elsa Varela and Mario Soliño
Forest Systems August 2015 • Volume 24 • Issue 2 • e026
4
rate of protest responses was explained by the authors
as due to the lack of trust of the respondents on the
success of the fire prevention program. Loomis &
González-Cabán (1998) tested WTP for implementing
a management plan to reduce acres of old growth forests
that burn in California and Oregon and are the habitat
for the spotted owl. A fire prevention and control pro-
gram based on early fire detection, increased fire pre-
vention and quicker and larger fire control response was
presented to respondents. The program would reduce
the acres of high intensity fires and total acres of old
growth forests burnt by all intensities of fire by 20%.
Table 1. Summary of stated preference studies revised
Authors Year Aim of the study
Valuation
technique
Region
Vaux et al.
1984
Temporal effects of res on the welfare
of recreationists
CV California(US)
Loomis & González-
Cabán
1994 WTP for increased re prevention of old-
growth forests
CV Colorado (US)
Loomis & González-
Cabán
1998 WTP for implementing a management
plan to reduce acres of old growth forests
CV California and Oregon (US)
Loomis et al.
2004, 2005,
2009
WTP for prescribed burning or mechani-
cal fuel reduction programs
CV California, Florida and
Montana (US)
González-Cabán et al.
2007
Testing whether differences in WTP for
fuel reduction programs exists between
native Americans and general population
CV Montana (US)
Riera & Mogas 2004 WTP to fund a re prevention program
that would reduce by half the annual
burnt area.
CV Catalonia (Spain)
Kaval et al.
2007 WTP for prescribed burning measures CV Colorado (US)
Walker et al.
2007 WTP for fuel treatment programs CV Colorado (US)
Winter & Fried 2001 WTP of homeowners for reducing re
risk in their homes
CV Michigan (US)
Talberth et al.
2006 WTP for risk reduction options CV New Mexico (US)
Holmes et al.
2012
Evaluate the value to homeowners in Flori-
da of public and private programs to reduce
wildre risk.
CM Florida (US)
Varela et al.
2014a
2014b
WTP for changes in the management of
fuel breaks
CM Malaga (Spain)
Riera et al.
2007 WTP for a mitigation program to reduce
the expected effects of global warming.
Trade-offs between three climate-sensitive
attributes of shrubland: plant cover, re risk
and soil erosion
CM Catalonia (Spain)
Soliño 2010 WTP for a program to produce electricity
from forest biomass that among other
benets would reduce the risk of forest
res
CM Galicia (Spain)
Galicia (Spain)
Soliño et al.
2010 WTP for a forest-energy programme that
would contribute to reduce the risk of
forest res
CV
Mavsar et al.
2013
WTP for forest management involving
trade-offs between re prevention and ES
provision
CM Slovenia
Forest Systems August 2015 • Volume 24 • Issue 2 • e026
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Incorporating economic valuation into re prevention planning and management wetland trees
WUI is further assessed. These studies have namely
being conducted in the United States where the share of
residents living in the WUI is quite significant. Protect-
ing private properties and human lives from wildfires
represents important costs for public administrations.
Hence, private owners are encouraged to undertake fire
prevention activities in their properties, setting defensive
spaces where biomass is reduced, decreasing the prob-
ability of severe fires taking place. The subjective pro-
cess of risk assessment that the homeowners go through
and which may either amplify or dampen objective risk
information, seems to play a key role in the willingness
of homeowners to go through these activities (Talberth
et al., 2006).
Winter & Fried (2001) conducted a CV study to
estimate the WTP of homeowners in Michigan to re-
duce the fire risk by 50% in their homes. They build a
conceptual model on risk perception and how it affects
the decision to participate in the hypothetical market.
They found that forest owners rejected actions because
the presence of vegetation outweighed the perceived
danger (“people live in the woods to live in the
woods”). Talberth et al. (2006) conducted a CV survey
in New Mexico where participants made simultaneous
choices between wildfire insurance and three types of
averting activities. They found that insurance and avert-
ing activities are not substitutes but rather are pur-
chased together to address both tangible and intangible
losses. Holmes et al. (2012) conducted a CM survey
with three attributes (risk, loss and cost) and employed
a 1,000 square lattice to illustrate the probability of a
wildfire damaging the home of the surveyed individu-
als. The level of risk varied from 1% to 5% and the
alternatives offered public and private protection. They
discussed the applicability of the prospect theory (Kah-
neman & Tversky, 1979). It states that individuals treat
probabilities as decision weights and simplification
rules are used to facilitate decision-making in complex
situations. Accordingly, the value function proposed
by prospect theory predicts that when faced with the
risk of a loss of wealth, people are generally risk seek-
ing. Kahneman & Tversky (1979) argue that this type
of behaviour results because people overweight a cer-
tain loss (the payment) relative to a probable loss (the
gamble). The results in Holmes et al. (2012) showed
that while nearly all respondents had risk seeking pref-
erences, a small segment of respondents were risk
neutral or risk averse. Only respondents who had per-
sonal experience with the effects of wildfire consist-
ently made trade-offs among risk, loss and cost and
these respondents were willing to pay more for wildfire
protection programs than were these respondents with-
out prior experience of the effects of wildfire. These
findings are in line with other studies that have stressed
This study estimated changes in social welfare arising
specifically from the responses of animal species to
wildfire, assessing this way the social preferences for
changes in the provision of a natural amenity that may
occur due to wildfires (Venn & Calkin, 2011). Loomis
et al. (2004; 2005; 2009) and González-Cabán et al.
(2007) tested the WTP of different populations in the
United States for prescribed burning or mechanical fuel
reduction programs expected to reduce forest fires in
25% and the houses destroyed by fire from 20 to 8. The
advantages and disadvantages of the mechanical tech-
nique are presented while these were lacking for the
prescribed burning. In their results they obtained a
higher number of protest responses for the mechanical
methods. The authors hypothesized that this may be due
to the lack of information on pros and cons for the pre-
scribed burning. Riera & Mogas (2004) estimated the
WTP of Catalan population to fund a fire prevention
program to reduce by half the annual burnt area. This
program included biomass reduction, thinning along
roads and inhabited areas and increased number of fire
watching guards. Kaval et al. (2007) tested WTP for
prescribed burning measures in public lands of residents
living near the Colorado wildland urban interface. Re-
spondents were told that the use of prescribed burning
could reduce by half the frequency of a wildfire in the
public land surrounding their homes. Kaval et al. (2007)
found that the support of the respondents to adopt a fire
risk mitigation policy depended on perceived fire fre-
quency intervals. Walker et al. (2007) also employed a
CV referendum format to test whether residents in
Colorado were willing to pay for fuel treatments pro-
grams, i.e. thinning and prescribed burning. It seems
that they did not specify the exact expected outcome of
these programs. They compare WTP estimates between
wildland urban interface (WUI) and urban residents and
found similar results for both subsamples with mean
WTP for thinning higher than for prescribed burning in
all samples. Varela et al. (2014a, 2014b) conducted a
CM survey in the province of Malaga (southern Spain)
where respondents were asked to make trade-offs among
fuel break management scenarios, each of them show-
ing different combinations of fuel break cleaning tech-
nique, design of fuel breaks and density of the fuel
break network (coupled with an expected decrease in
burnt area). The density of the fuel break network is the
attribute that determined preferences to a greater extent.
This study also showed that although significant het-
erogeneity on preferences exists, being knowledgeable
on fire causality and perceiving forest fires as an envi-
ronmental problem are two of the features contributing
to explain this heterogeneity.
A more recent set of valuation studies has been de-
veloped where risk perception of homeowners in the
Elsa Varela and Mario Soliño
Forest Systems August 2015 • Volume 24 • Issue 2 • e026
6
the influence of current status quo perception in the
obtained valuation estimates (Domínguez-Torreiro &
Soliño, 2011).
Challenges faced when evaluating welfare change
arising from wildfires as natural disturbances include
insufficient scientific information to assess how non-
market forest goods and services are affected by wild-
fire and a dearth of studies that have estimated mar-
ginal WTP to conserve non-market forest goods and
services (Venn & Calkin, 2001). We would add the
inherent difficulties in setting up valuation studies that
convey simultaneously scenarios credible for the
population and meaningful for the decision makers.
Finally an array of studies exists that show fire risk or
burnt area reduction as an outcome of broader manage-
ment policies, aimed at reducing global warming (Riera
et al., 2007), increasing the biomass share in energy
production (Soliño, 2010; Soliño et al., 2010; 2012) or
assessing perceived trade-offs between fire prevention
and provision of ecosystem services (Mavsar et al., 2013).
Discussion
Forest fires can be considered as a public bad and
hence the set up of fire prevention systems in public
forests as a public good. All the population may ben-
efit from fire prevention management without exclusion
or rivalry, although the array of avoided costs (benefits)
may differ among different citizens. The social concern
that exists towards forest fires makes it reasonable to
hypothesize that changes in the management of fire
prevention systems may have an impact on the welfare
of the population. This change in welfare is usually
neglected and not accounted for, with management
decisions most often based on financial and ecological
criteria. As an example, the set up of fuel break net-
works, which is one the prevention measures under-
taken by forest agencies, may produce a number of
externalities, both positive (as these are expected to
contribute to decrease the number of burnt hectares)
and negative (negative impacts on the landscape or
increased soil erosion).
A general problem in valuation studies is that the
valuation scenario should be understandable and mean-
ingful for the respondents, retrieving significant results
for its analysis and at the same time the outcomes
should be relevant for decision making and consistent
with the management instruments employed. In setting
up the valuation scenario, causality is a key aspect to
consider when selecting the attributes/scenario to de-
scribe the environmental good or service to be valued.
Upstream or causal scenarios depict fire prevention
programs for their valuation by the respondents (e.g.
Walker et al., 2007), i.e. prescribed burning or thinning
activities to reduce biomass. In contrast, effect sce-
narios/attributes evaluate the social preferences for the
effects of these prevention programs, i.e. reduction in
burnt hectares or in burnt properties. The studies pre-
sented above can be assessed in relation to the way they
approach causality issues.
The seminal studies presented at the beginning of
the previous section are focused on ex-post scenarios,
and hence more credible and easier to approach from
a valuation point of view, as they are focused on effect
scenarios that are already known. Hence the challenge
on how to address causality relates to valuation studies
focused on ex-ante approaches.
Causal attributes are often more policy relevant and
measurable than downstream attributes (Blamey et al.,
2002). The drawback of adopting a causal approach is
that respondents are left to reach their own conclusions
on the benefits derived from the proposed changes, i.e.
on the effectiveness or degree of success of such pro-
grams. This is something highly undesirable when re-
spondents hold a low familiarity with the good to be
valued. In contrast, respondents usually find it easier to
choose these attributes or scenarios linked to the ben-
efits or effects that can be obtained, e.g. number of burnt
hectares. The second block of studies presented above
uses a mixed approach, where respondents are asked to
provide their preferences for a series of fire prevention
management options (causal attributes), in presence of
a fixed outcome in relation to the burnt area (e.g.
Loomis et al. (2004, 2005, 2009) and González-Cabán
et al. (2007)). The drawback of this approach is that the
scientific link between action and end effects is many
times uncertain and difficult to prove. The study by
Varela et al. (2014a, 2014b) was developed in a Medi-
terranean context and conveys simultaneously informa-
tion on fire prevention and outcomes related to the
expected burnt area. Thus, respondents expressed their
preferences both for causal attributes (design of fuel
breaks and cleaning techniques) and for effect attributes
(density of fuel breaks and expected burnt area). This
approach allows to covering meaningful management
attributes and securing that the respondents do not reach
their own conclusions about the expected results of
these prevention actions.
However, conveying concepts such as severity and
uncertainty to the respondents is challenging, being the
number of studies addressing these aspects still scarce.
The studies conducted by Winter & Fried (2001) and
Holmes et al. (2012) can serve as a good reference in
this regards, as they present the respondents with sce-
narios closer to reality where the outcomes of a series
of prevention activities are no longer precise but
probabilistic.
Forest Systems August 2015 • Volume 24 • Issue 2 • e026
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Incorporating economic valuation into re prevention planning and management wetland trees
social perception and statistics regarding fire causal-
ity.
The primary criterion to select the attributes in a
valuation study is that these attributes should be un-
derstandable and meaningful for the surveyed popula-
tion. In addition the attributes should also retrieve re-
sults that are useful for managers and decision makers
in the implementation of policies. The consideration
of causality and effect in the election of attributes is
relevant in the achievement of such a balance.
Climate change in Southern European countries will
force institutions to acknowledge and embrace uncer-
tainty in the future since we are moving into a time
period with few analogues, being the strategic goal to
encourage gradual adaptation and transition to inevi-
table change, and thereby to avoid rapid threshold re-
sponses that may occur otherwise (Stephens et al.,
2010). To incorporate local populations and foster co-
responsibility in the management of natural resources,
these messages should be appropriately conveyed to
the general public as well as managers should have a
better knowledge of social preferences for the different
management options.
Valuation studies assessing social preferences can
contribute to inform these new management trends in
fire management. This type of studies, more developed
in the United States where wildfires are very relevant,
are still very scarce in the Mediterranean (see Table 1),
existing an important room for their development.
These studies may contribute to the decision making
process that nowadays is largely driven by technical
and ecological criteria.
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fire fighters (Badia et al., 2011). The WUI that was not
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scarce in the Mediterranean. Despite some common
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Finally a pending issue in all these revised studies
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Conclusions
Fire prevention measures may have a high visual
impact on the landscape and forest fires raise a high
social awareness. The effectiveness of fuel manage-
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