Farmers as Managers of Traditional Rural Biotopes: management motivations and policy implications

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Title: Farmers as Managers of Traditional Rural Biotopes: management motivations and policy implications
Author: Birge, Traci
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Agricultural Sciences, kasvituotannon biologia (pääaine agroekologia)
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2015-06-09
Thesis level: Licenciate thesis
Abstract: ABSTRACT Traditional rural biotopes are high nature value (HNV) farmlands that include grazed forests, woodlands, and semi-natural meadows formed through traditional agricultural practices. Agricultural intensification and associated changes in demographics and land use have resulted in a decline in traditional rural biotopes throughout Europe. Despite the downward trend, some farmers still do manage traditional rural biotopes. Literature in farmer behavior variously suggests that agency and structural factors determine farmer decision-making and conservation behavior, and that farmers engage in farming styles according to their own values. The objectives of this research are to 1) understand what motivates farmers and landowners to manage traditional rural biotopes, 2) test whether managers differ in motivation, knowledge or structural factors according to whether the traditional rural biotopes are used in the farming system or managed separately from it as conservation sites or landscape elements, and 3) explore conservation tools and frameworks that might be used to improve policy and agri-extension services for conservation and management of traditional rural biotopes. The purpose of this thesis is to provide support to traditional rural biotope conservation in agriculture by furthering knowledge about manager behavior and motivations and to add to the literature on farmer conservation behavior more broadly with management of traditional rural biotopes as a focus for understanding farmer conservation related decision-making. The thesis is based on a two-part study in which research was carried out via postal questionnaires and interviews with farmers in Raasepori Municipality, on the southern coast of Finland. In the first part of the study, I sent postal questionnaires to all farms in Raasepori to identify farms with managed traditional rural biotopes. I asked farmers about activities on their farms to determine whether farmers managing traditional rural biotopes differed from other farmers according to nature-based activities or entrepreneurship and to determine whether non-agricultural activities take place on traditional rural biotopes. I considered the results in the context of existing extension services and agri-environmental schemes and explored how holistic conservation tools and approaches, including adaptive management, and social-ecological systems could be used to improve services for farmers engaged in TRB management. In the second part of the study, I conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with TRB managers to determine whether sites were managed as part of the farming system or apart from it, motivations for managing traditional rural biotopes, interest and knowledge of conservation of traditional rural biotopes and experiences with extension and inspection services. I tested whether managers who used traditional rural biotopes in their farming system differed from those who did not and examined farmer engagement in traditional rural biotope management according to two sociological theories used in studying farmer behavior: theory of planned behavior and farming styles. I also compare summary findings of management activities to an inventory carried out by Pykälä and Bonn (2000) and present evidence of non-agricultural direct-use benefits (direct use ecosystem services) provided by traditional rural biotopes. Results indicate that farmers mainly manage traditional rural biotopes for intrinsic values, especially of open landscape, and are less motivated by extrinsic values such as fodder production or collecting special agri-environmental subsidies. Farmers with managed traditional rural biotopes are more likely to engage in entrepreneurship activities that bring the public to their farms or result in branding of their products. Findings support the theory of planned behavior insofar as agency and personal values are important to decision-making. Managers of traditional rural biotopes do not form a distinct farming style, but a group of farmers was identified whose farming system is based on managing traditional rural biotopes and direct sale of the traditional rural biotope products, was identified as a distinct farming style. We called it TRB entrepreneurship . Implications of the findings for extension services and policy development are that farmers and landowners engaged in management should be viewed as partners in conservation and that adaptive management and understanding of manager heterogeneity should be used to develop and target extension services and conservation strategies.
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