The importance of ecosystem services for rural inhabitants in a changing cultural landscape in Romania

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Many traditional cultural landscapes evolved as coupled social-ecological systems. It is important to understand how such systems navigate novel challenges posed by globalization. To address this issue, we bring together two components of a pilot study carried out in a cultural landscape from Central Romania. The region was affected by major social and economic perturbations in the past century, affecting ethnic composition, community cohesion, land property regimes, and the management of common resources. The first component of our study investigated how rural inhabitants appreciated ecosystem services through questionnaires with 98 people in 30 villages. The second component aimed to assess the perception of people about ongoing changes in their communities through semistructured interviews with 50 people in 5 villages. Rural inhabitants particularly valued provisioning ecosystem services such as firewood, water, and crops, but also healthy soils. Rural communities were characterized by a number of social and economic issues, especially individualism, lack of trust, corruption, and poverty. People from communities with many initiatives, e.g., NGOs, associations, and active individuals, were more optimistic regarding the future of their communities than people from villages with few or no initiatives. A major challenge for cultural landscapes such as those in Central Romania is to find new, meaningful ways to keep the social and ecological systems connected. Otherwise there is a risk that (short-term) socioeconomic interests may impair the provisioning of important ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2014

    Research areas

  • Environmental planning - Change, Cultural landscape, Eastern Europe, Globalization, Rural communities