Peatland areas comprise half of the world’s wetlands and play important ecological roles. Peatlands offer a diversity of social, economic and environmental benefits, and in so doing serve a wide range of human interests. Despite this peatlands are fast disappearing. Some uses, particularly those associated with agriculture, result in degradation of the peat stock itself. In this context, the research aims to increase the understanding of the socio-economic dimensions of lowland peatland systems in Northern Europe. Focussing on two sites in England, namely Somerset and the Fens, it uses the ecosystem services framework to explore the flow of multiple goods and services from peatlands, while simultaneously linking these to stakeholder interests and influences. Stakeholder and multi-criteria analysis were used in combination to identify the ecosystem services delivered in the case study areas and explain how these services were distributed amongst stakeholders. Using open stakeholder interviews, workshops and formal multi-criteria techniques (AHP and MAUT), it was possible to elucidate the factors that shape land use preferences. Livelihood provisions, maintenance of wildlife interest and floodwater storage were found to be the most important peatland services to stakeholders. The high livelihood associated with consumptive use of peatlands, along with the high degree of private land ownership and the continued relative freedom this affords were found to be the two largest barriers to wise use of peatlands. The findings suggest that new policy mechanisms may be required to designate property rights to secure particular ecosystem services for the public good. This might involve new institutional arrangements, possibly involving multi dimensional entitlement systems, to secure the future of peatlands. The ecosystem services framework, combined with stakeholder and multi-criteria analyses, were shown to be effective in providing an understanding of the synergies and conflicts in peatland management
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