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Forest values and application of different management activities among small-scale forest owners in five EU countries

Forests are important for the transition to a bioeconomy. With 60% of Europe's forest area owned and managed by small-scale owners, these owners' management behaviour is key. Identifying commonalities and differences between owners in different EU countries promotes effective implementation of EU strategies for a sustainable transition to a wood-based bioeconomy. This study examines the value orientations and management behaviour of private small-scale forest owners in five EU countries. Based on a questionnaire survey in Austria, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, and Sweden (n = 2524), we analysed these owners' values, and how various management activities are perceived in relation to management strategies. Respondents rated the importance of economic, environmental, and social values regarding their forest holdings, and were divided into groups based on their value orientation. Overall, the largest value group was ‘All values very important’; more so in Austria, Finland, and Germany than in Slovenia and Sweden. In Finland and Sweden the proportion of respondents in the ‘Economic and environmental values’ value group was low. This suggets that small-scale forest owners in these countries rarely consider economics and the environment together. Forest management activities were applied to varying degrees in the five countries. However, respondents in all countries who considered all values to be very important were the most active in all management activities compared to those who considered all values to be somewhat important. Our analysis highlighted the importance of context, showing that the propensity to use a particular activity was explained to a lesser extent by owner characteristics and value orientation and, in the case of most activities, more strongly by country. The way objectives of policies and management strategies are communicated may need to be adapted to the specific conditions of each country.

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