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Participatory multi-criteria decision analysis in valuing peatland ecosystem services—Trade-offs related to peat extraction vs. pristine peatlands in Southern Finland

Saarikoski, Heli, Mustajoki, Jyri, Hjerppe, Turo, Aapala, Kaisu
Ecological economics 2019 v.162 pp. 17-28
biodiversity, carbon sinks, ecosystem services, ecosystems, issues and policy, learning, multi-criteria decision making, peat, peatlands, socioeconomic factors, stakeholders, water quality, Finland
The use of peatlands and the multiple but mutually exclusive ecosystem services they provide is a highly debated issue worldwide. We used a participatory multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) to address multiple value dimensions and trade-offs related to peatland ecosystem services in Southern Finland. We evaluated five peatland policy scenarios against provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services as well as socio-economic factors, and engaged key stakeholders in framing the assessment and assigning criteria weights. The MCDA process showed that while peat extraction can basically be reconciled with preserving the most important biodiversity values in Finland, the conflict between peat extraction and carbon stock as well as water quality impacts and the related amenity values is irreconcilable. The role of the participatory MCDA process in promoting learning and reflection was smaller than expected but it did facilitate learning about the flows of peatland ecosystem services. The role of the participants was important not only in making value judgements but also in contributing to the impact assessment, thereby supporting the calls for transdisciplinarity in ecosystem service assessments.