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Abstract

Due to the steady reduction of nature sites in urbanised regions, nature restoration projects are now a focal point of public interest. Policy-makers are required to balance public preferences for nature sites, with the high costs of nature restoration projects. Landscape preferences are, in general, positively correlated with ecological preferences. However this relationship is far from straightforward. Past studies show that different factors, such as personal, site-specific and spatial characteristics, influence preferences, while at the same time, little is known about the relative importance of these factors. This article proposes a conceptual approach for gaining insights into preference heterogeneity, in the context of stated preference environmental valuation studies. We conduct a choice experiment at the Drongengoed (Belgium); an afforested heathland with a diversified mosaic of natural habitats. The experiment determines public preferences towards nature restoration scenarios and illustrates the public’s willingness-to-pay for a change from the current state to a scenario with less coniferous trees, higher biodiversity and good maintaining of accessibility. Area-specific and socio-demographic characteristics are controlled for and affect the preferences for certain types of nature restoration scenarios. Preference heterogeneity is also observed for most of the choice attributes, suggesting that more sophisticated modelling methods are needed.

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