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A study on type, volume and governance of ecosystem services in Bulgarian farms

Bachev, Hrabrin (2021): A study on type, volume and governance of ecosystem services in Bulgarian farms.

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Abstract

The products and the variety of direct and indirect benefits that humans receive from nature and the various ecosystems (agricultural, forest, grass, mountain, river, marine, etc.) are commonly known as ecosystem services. Agricultural ecosystems of different types and their specific “agro-ecosystem” services are among the most widespread in the world. In recent years increasing attention is given to the system of (“good”) governance as a key to achieving public, collective, corporate, and private goals in relation to conservation and improvement of (agro)ecosystem services. Nevertheless, in Bulgaria, like in many other countries, there are few studies on the amount and importance of agro-ecosystem services, and the specific mechanisms, modes, factors, and efficiency of their management. This chapter tries to fill the gap and presents the results of a large-scale study on the structure and governance of diverse ecosystem services of Bulgarian farms. Firstly, it identifies the type, amount, and importance of various (provisional, economic, recreational, aesthetic, cultural, educational, supporting, water and air purification, biodiversity preservation, climate regulation, etc.) ecosystem services maintained and “produced” by the Bulgarian farms of different juridical type, size, specialization, and location. The study has found out that country’s farms provide a great number of essential ecosystem services among which provisioning food and feed, and conservation of elements of the natural environment prevail. Secondly, it identifies and assesses the efficiency and complementarities of specific modes and mechanisms of governance of ecosystem services used by the Bulgarian farms. The study had found out that a great variety of private, market, collective, public and hybrid modes of governance of farm activity related to agroecosystem services are applied. There is significant differentiation of employed managerial forms depending on the type of ecosystem services and the specialization of agricultural holdings. Furthermore, the management of agroecosystem services is associated with a considerable increase in the production and transaction costs of participating farms as well as big socio-economic and environmental effects for agricultural holdings and other parties. The factors that mostly stimulate the activity of Bulgarian agricultural producers for protection of (agro)ecosystems and their services are participation in public support programs, access to farmers' advice, professional training, available information, and innovation received direct subsidies from EU and national government, personal conviction and satisfaction, positive experience of others, long-term and immediate benefits for the farm, and integration with suppliers, buyers, and processors. The suggested holistic and interdisciplinary framework for analyzing the system of management of agro-ecosystem services is to be further extended and improved, and more widely and periodically applied in the future. The latter requires systematic in-depth multidisciplinary research in this new area, as well as the collection of original micro- and macro information on ecosystem survives, and forms, efficiency, and factors of their management. The accuracy of analyzes is to be improved by increasing representativeness through enlarging the number of surveyed farms and related agents, applying statistical methods, special "training" of participants, etc. as well as improving the official system for collecting agricultural, agro-economic, and agri-environmental information in the country.

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