Scientific and local ecological knowledge, shaping perceptions towards protected areas and related ecosystem services

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Miguel A. Cebrián-Piqueras
  • Anna Filyushkina
  • Dana N. Johnson
  • Veronica Lo
  • María D. López-Rodríguez
  • Hug March
  • E. Oteros-Rozas
  • Cord Peppler-Lisbach
  • Cristina Quintas-Soriano
  • Cchristopher M. Raymond
  • Isabel Ruiz-Mallén
  • Carena J. van Riper
  • Yves Zinngrebe
  • Tobias Plieninger

Context: Most protected areas are managed based on objectives related to scientific ecological knowledge of species and ecosystems. However, a core principle of sustainability science is that understanding and including local ecological knowledge, perceptions of ecosystem service provision and landscape vulnerability will improve sustainability and resilience of social-ecological systems. Here, we take up these assumptions in the context of protected areas to provide insight on the effectiveness of nature protection goals, particularly in highly human-influenced landscapes. Objectives: We examined how residents’ ecological knowledge systems, comprised of both local and scientific, mediated the relationship between their characteristics and a set of variables that represented perceptions of ecosystem services, landscape change, human-nature relationships, and impacts. Methods: We administered a face-to-face survey to local residents in the Sierra de Guadarrama protected areas, Spain. We used bi- and multi-variate analysis, including partial least squares path modeling to test our hypotheses. Results: Ecological knowledge systems were highly correlated and were instrumental in predicting perceptions of water-related ecosystem services, landscape change, increasing outdoors activities, and human-nature relationships. Engagement with nature, socio-demographics, trip characteristics, and a rural–urban gradient explained a high degree of variation in ecological knowledge. Bundles of perceived ecosystem services and impacts, in relation to ecological knowledge, emerged as social representation on how residents relate to, understand, and perceive landscapes. Conclusions: Our findings provide insight into the interactions between ecological knowledge systems and their role in shaping perceptions of local communities about protected areas. These results are expected to inform protected area management and landscape sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)2549-2567
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 01.11.2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper was supported by the ENVISION project, funded through the 2017–2018 Belmont Forum and BiodivERsA joint call for research proposals, under the BiodivScen ERA-Net COFUND programme, and with the support of national funders (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Grant Number: 01LC18064, National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1854767). We want to thank the valuable support of the staff of the Spanish National Centre of Environmental Education (CENEAM) and the local collaborators who conducted interviews with local residents. IRM (Grant No. RYC-2015-17676). EOR (Grant No. IJCI-2017-34334).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Biodiversity, Ecosystem services, Ecosystem vulnerability, Human-nature relationships, Inclusive conservation, Landscape sustainability, Local community, Protected areas, Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Ecosystems Research