Research highlights: Recreation value increases with the age of replanted as well as successional forests. Successional forests are not systematically less valuable for recreation than replanted forests. Succession may be used as a viable and low-cost reclamation practice of spoil heaps. Background and objectives: Afforestation has been a popular practice in post-mining land reclamation in the Czech Republic. To expand the current evidence on the recreation values of reclaimed forests, we conducted a valuation study for most typical reclaimed forests, as well as for successional forests spontaneously growing on surface coal mine deposit heaps. Using two distinct measurement methods, we also explore whether the estimated recreation value of forests is robust. Materials and Methods: An online survey was conducted in 2016 on a sample of residents living in the vicinity of coal mine deposit heaps, residents of the adjacent region of Karlovy Vary, and a control population from the central Bohemian region. Participants evaluated visual representations of forest stands typical for reclamation and succession, along with commercial spruce forest as a reference type. In the direct measurement, we measured the attractiveness of a respective forest for a walk using a 5-point scale. In the indirect measurement, a hypothetical choice between two forests for a walk was elicited in a discrete choice experiment. Results:
Both direct and indirect measurements provide similar results. All reclaimed forests have a lower recreation value than the reference spruce forest. Successional forests are not systematically less valuable for recreation than replanted forests and the recreation value of both types increases with their age. The age, gender, and education of the participants did not affect the recreation value of a forest. Conclusions: We demonstrate that succession may be used as a viable and low-cost reclamation practice of spoil heaps emerging as a by-product of open-cast coal mining. With recreation as only one of many forest uses, our findings need to be interpreted vis-à-vis the objectives and expected results for individual sites and their habitat conditions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.