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Participatory approaches: understanding ecosystem services at the community level in northeastern Italy

<font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>Stakeholders hold different knowledge and understandings about ecosystem services and ways to best secure their valorisation and management. Different understandings can thus lead to contextually specific implementation in territories and regions.</font>

<font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>In the Veneto Region, Northeastern Italy, the Region collaborated with the local development agency, the Local Action Group (LAG) Alto Bellunese, to find ways to be communicate the term ‘ecosystem services’ and promote the creation of mechanisms for Payments for Ecosystem Services in the local context.</font>

<font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>With the technical support of Etifor, the Veneto Region developed a stepwise process for communicating the ecosystem services concept in the territory:</font>

  1. Presentation of the ecosystem services concept to a key stakeholder in the area
    1. <font 14px/arial,helvetica,sans-serif;;inherit;;inherit>Identification of the target area for communication and dissemination of the concept</font>
    2. <font 14px/arial,helvetica,sans-serif;;inherit;;inherit>Identification of ecosystem services of interest for development purposes</font>
  2. Organisation of community workshops by selected ecosystem services in the target area
  3. Assessment of results and planning of future development projects in the area

Presentation of the ecosystem services concept

<font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>In order to introduce, discuss, and select the ecosystem services of interest for the area, a technical meeting between the Region and the local development agency was organised. Two ecosystem services were selected for further communication in the local area. These are:</font>

  • <font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>Biomass production</font>
  • <font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>Outdoor recreation activities</font>

<font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>The area identified within the LAG to work on was the Zoldo Valley, located in the heart of the Dolomites, in the Province of Belluno, Veneto.</font>

Organisation of participatory workshops

Follow me, there’s a path in the woods: Through a theatre performance, threading through the cultural, historical and literary values of forests, the first series of three meetings was introduced in Zoldo. The key area of interest was the valorization of local wild forest products and local farm productions as a way to stem land fragmentation in the valley.

Is it the community that has to serve tourism or tourism that has to serve the community? With this question, the second series of workshops focused <font 14px/14px;;inherit;;inherit>on recreational services. First, the local community was asked to respond to the question: ‘Tourism in Val di Zoldo is…” Second, the meetings brought together stakeholders involved in tourism, including the provincial Destination Management Organisation, the local tourism consortium, the local development agency, the mayor of the valley and the regional project partner. Third, two participatory meetings were held for the community and the local operators to identify the needs of the tourism sector in the area, and to reflect on the resources locally available to construct a tourism product.</font>

Assessment of results and planning of future development projects

By promoting and attending all the events, the local development agency was able to draw on key issues and propose two cooperation projects promoting local public mobility and the valorisation of a site. These projects are to be developed together with the municipality of the valley. In terms of tourism, the AlpES project is to further investigate the potential to adopt payment-based mechanisms to support the valorisation of the local site.


Communication of the ecosystem services concepts should start from the translation into terms that resonate with local understandings of territory, development, identity, and culture. In the case of biomass production, the community was first asked to reflect on what the forest meant to them from a cultural and historical point of view, and how their forest/grassland resources could support local development. In the case of ‘recreational service’, it was translated into a concept more closely aligned with tourism’s best practices, which are currently associated with the concepts of destination organisation, management and marketing. In this case, tourism was described as a common and territorial good that can be cultivated by the community to support local development.

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