Combining sense of place theory with the ecosystem services concept: empirical insights and reflections from a participatory mapping study

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Context: River landscapes represent hotspots for biodiversity and ecosystem services used and embraced by human agents. Changes in river landscapes are subjectively perceived by people and can be assessed through the lenses of cultural ecosystem services (CES) and sense of place (SOP). Objectives: This study aims to assess people–place relationships in a river landscape by integrating SOP theory and the CES concept and critically reflecting on their interplay. Research objectives relate to meanings and attachments attributed by citizens to places and the influence of the physical environment and socioeconomic settings. Methods: We employed a spatially meaningful place indicator in a public participation GIS survey, combining meanings elucidated through a free listing exercise and multiple-choice questions. Statistical analyses were employed to investigate relationships between meanings, place attachment, and environmental and social variables. Results: The results showed that (1) place meaning assessments can complement place attachment data by enhancing the understanding of relationships to biophysical and socioeconomic variables, and (2) combinations of both assessment approaches for place meanings showed that CESs were reflected in many free listed meaning types, dominantly related to forms or practices, but neglect relational values, such as “Heimat” (i.e., in German expression of the long-standing connection to an area) or memories. Conclusions: This paper explicates synergies between SOP theory and CES concept. CES research offers insights from spatial assessments, while SOP research provides theoretical depth regarding relational values linked to CES. This paper critically reflects the ostensible consent of understanding SOP as a CES and proposes considering SOP as an overarching theory for CES assessment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)633-655
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Cultural ecosystem services, PPGIS, Participatory mapping, Place attachment, Place meanings, Relational values, River landscape
  • Environmental planning