Potential Adoption of Native Fruit and Nut Tree Riparian Buffers on Private Land in Western Virginia
Riparian corridors are often farmed or grazed because they are typically productive and offer a low cost water supply for livestock. These areas are also critical in terms of water quality, soil retention, and aquatic and terrestrial wildlife habitat. Conservation of riparian areas can be conflicting due to loss of productive land for other uses. Agroforestry riparian buffers planted with native fruit and nut trees could help integrate conservation and production in this valuable space by giving landowners the opportunity to provide beneficial environmental services, while enhancing their opportunities for revenue. In order to realize potential use of this type of system, it is important to understand how to communicate benefits and improve prediction of adoption. With this in mind, we conducted a mail survey of creek side owners within three Virginia subwatersheds to 1) create typologies of underlying groups of landowners in order to develop relevant communication strategies for native fruit and nut tree ripairan buffers and 2) test the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) singularly and with additional agroforestry concepts to predict intention to adopt native fruit and nut tree ripairan buffers. Three landowner types were identified within the larger population of creek owners and exhibit differences that merit tailored communication strategies. Both models predict a noteworthy amount of intention to plant native fruit and nut tree riparian buffers. However, when agroforestry measures were added they explained a notable portion of variance.