Feelings of psychological ownership towards private forests

Tutkimustuotos: OpinnäyteVäitöskirjaArtikkelikokoelma


This dissertation focuses on analysing the feelings of ownership that the owners and other users of forests have developed towards privately-owned forest resources. These resources play a major part in providing forest-based benefits to society, as a large proportion of the forests in Europe and the US are privately owned. Furthermore, the majority of privately-owned forests are owned by so called non-industrial private forest owners (NIPF), typically referring to individual persons or family forest owners. Therefore, the decisions the NIPF owners make regarding their forest resources have a direct impact on the availability of forest-based ecosystem services.
Due to the importance of the private forest resources at global, national and local levels, it is not surprising that a vast number of regulations and land use practices have been developed, that set the regulatory framework for the use of forests. Also, users other than the owners feel that they have the right to speak about the use of forests. Due to these demands and the expectations from the wider society, the forest owners do not have sole control over their forest areas. Thus, the ownership of forests cannot be directly compared to the ownership of cars or stocks, for example.
In the best case, the objectives of both private forest owners and various society’s objectives for the use of forest resources could be met at the same time by matching the forest owners’ values with the alternative needs users had for the resource. Managing the different expectations in a socially sustainable way necessitates a profound understanding of the forest owners’ own objectives, values and motivations regarding their forests. However, previous research has shown that the forest owners’ socio-demographic characteristics or the objectives of the use of forests no longer explain the values and behaviour very well. It has also been suggested that the traditional forest owner typologies capture only the most salient objectives and therefore do not properly reflect the forest owners’ behaviour. Also, other approaches are needed.
This dissertation contributes to the abovementioned research by introducing a novel concept, psychological ownership, as a potential approach to understanding the possessive feelings towards privately-owned forest resources, and via that, a better understanding of the role of these feelings in the behaviour of forest owners and other forest users (in this case nature-based tourism entrepreneurs) . Psychological ownership is based on the idea that ownership should not be understood only as a legal construct, but also to include certain psychological elements i.e. to the feeling “it is mine”. Originally, psychological ownership was introduced in the field of organizational research, but it has since been applied increasingly in other sectors. In this study, it is used as the theoretical background to understand the ownership feelings about private forest resources. Psychological ownership can also bring a new approach to study the co-operation relationships related to the use of forests by multiple stakeholders, for example, when introducing new potential uses of forest resources (in this case nature-based entrepreneurs).
The study is qualitative in nature and the data consist of thematic interviews with private forest owners and nature tourism entrepreneurs. The results summarise the findings from three published journal articles. They show that both the legal owners and the nature-based entrepreneurs utilizing private forest areas seem to have developed psychological ownership feelings towards these forests. However, these feelings are not necessarily dependent on the legal ownership of the resource. Furthermore, the psychological ownership experienced seems to influence the behaviour of the persons expressing these feelings, for example, related to the private forest owners’ forest management decisions. The results also illustrate that recognizing psychological ownership can help in understanding successful co-operation relationships and potential conflict situations relating to the multiple use of forest resources. In practice, it could help to foresee or even manage the potential conflicts. However, before psychological ownership can serve as a proper “management tool” in these situations, further research is warranted.
Myöntävä instituutio
  • Helsingin yliopisto
  • Karppinen, Heimo, Valvoja
  • Kurki, Sami, Valvoja
Myöntöpäivämäärä11 kesäk. 2019
Painoksen ISBN978-951-51-3774-6
Sähköinen ISBN978-951-51-3775-3
TilaJulkaistu - 12 huhtik. 2019
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)


  • 4112 Metsätiede
  • forest ownership
  • psychological ownership
  • nature-based tourism
  • conflict
  • stakeholder management
  • natural resources

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