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Institutions for Spatially Managing the Harvest of Wild Forest Products: Implications for Welfare and Ecology

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Robinson, Brian
Conference: 17th Annual Conference of The International Society for New Institutional Economics
Location: Florence, Italy
Conf. Date: June 20-22
Date: 2013
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/9063
Sector: Forestry
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): institutions
forest products
Abstract: "Wild forests products benefit many rural communities in developing countries. Often these forests also contain globally valuable ecosystem services, such as biodiversity and carbon, which may not be as important to local communities. This paper develops a spatial model for harvesting non-timber forest products (NTFPs), like wild mushrooms or medicinal plants. It asks: how much can management of harvests simultaneously improve welfare and ecological outcomes? I develop a theoretical model that accounts for the shape of the forest, the size of the harvest community, and incorporates real-world constraints. The results first show that even under open access conditions (uncooperative competition), if the forest is large relative to the size of the community then harvesters still profit. Second, managing a forest to maximize NTFP value does not always protect other regionally or globally important ecosystem services like biodiversity or water storage capacity. Using a unique dataset of mushroom harvests in Yunnan, China, I test for characteristics associated with harvester’s foraging distance. The results support the theoretical model’s spatial foundation, suggesting harvesters travel farther to avoid competition. More experienced and less-wealthy households tend to rely on more distant harvests. There are livelihood benefits to cooperation but potential ecological costs in some contexts. Regardless, limiting access likely disproportionately affects the most vulnerable."

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