Landscape features shape people's perception of ecosystem service supply areas

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Landscapes have typically been produced by varied, diverse, and long-term interactions between people and nature. However, most landscape planning and ecosystem service mapping approaches focus on the biophysical aspects of landscapes rather the social. Spatial representations of people's perceptions, mental models, and local knowledge of ecosystem services can be created using participatory mapping. This study uses participatory mapping to identify how peoples’ perceptions of provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem service supply areas coincide or mismatch with the landscapes features of two Mediterranean river basin areas in north-eastern Catalonia, Spain. We found that the random forest and geographically weighted regression techniques are able to strongly associate landscape features with stakeholders’ perceptions of ecosystem supply areas. These results demonstrate that the stakeholders associate various geographic elements with different types of ecosystem service supply areas. Visible geographical features, such as a reservoir, mountains, wetlands, showed great importance in the perception of supply areas of ecosystem services, compared to ecological or biophysical indicators, when mapping and spatially associating certain benefits to ecosystem services supply areas. These findings reveal that, often, the ecological processes and dynamics of functioning of ecosystems are invisible and not fully understood. We argue that integrating these aspects into participatory landscape planning, policies and practice can make the invisible visible and, consequently, increase the understanding for a more targeted and effective management. This could allow stakeholders to better understand the ecological processes behind the visible geographic features of the landscape, fostering a shared knowledge and better environmental management outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101561
JournalEcosystem Services
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded with the financial support of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness through the project “Incentives and barriers to water conservation in the tourism sector. Analysis and proposals for efficient water management” (CSO2016-75740-P).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.

    Research areas

  • Participatory mapping, Social-ecological systems, Spatial analysis, Spatial metrics, Stakeholder perception, Water ecosystem services
  • Educational science