An experiment on ecological restoration

Eleonora Ciscato (University of Milan)
Virginia Cecchini Manara (University of Milan)
Pietro Guarnieri (University of Pisa)
Lorenzo Spadoni (University of Cassino and Southern Lazio)


Traditionally, environmental policies and regulations mainly focus on the prevention and mitigation of damage, to minimize negative effects on the environment. However, the global and local threats of the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises are soliciting a profound revision of norms and resource management. Among the most impactful and promising measures that could come at hand, ecological restoration and the efforts to recover damaged or polluted ecosystems are probably one of the most overlooked ones (Akhtar-Khavari and Richardson, 2019). Indeed, although restoration projects are multiplying, key limits in their efficacy have been identified in the bounded legal reach, information asymmetries and, especially, lack of coordination among stakeholders (Cortina-Segarra et al., 2021).

Once viewed as a bottom-up collective problem, we argue that restoration can activate some motivations such as new sense of responsibility and belonging to a shared identity, avoiding the typical public goods free-riding problem. In this paper, with a two-stage experiment we test these hypothesis by measuring individual willingness to restore a common pool resource previously subject to exploitation. In particular, we test whether subjects are willing to scale restoration up after experiencing an increase in the provision of ecosystem services, and whether individual responsibility for the extraction of resources affects restoration decisions.

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