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Using visual stimuli to explore the social perceptions of ecosystem services in cultural landscapes: the case of transhumance in Mediterranean Spain

César A. López-Santiago, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Edificio de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Elisa Oteros-Rozas, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Edificio de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Berta Martín-López, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Edificio de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Tobias Plieninger, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen
Esther González Martín, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Edificio de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
José A. González, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Edificio de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06401-190227

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Abstract

The ecosystem services approach has been proposed as a powerful tool for the analysis of coupled social-ecological systems. This approach is particularly useful for the evaluation of cultural landscapes, which represent the joint evolution of humans and nature across an extended time span. Transhumance is a customary practice of mobile pastoralism, involving the regular seasonal migration of livestock herds between summer and winter pasturelands. This practice maintains unique cultural landscapes in Mediterranean Spain, which have been shaped over many centuries of pastoral activity. Drove roads, which are used for herd migration, represent the most outstanding feature of these landscapes. We used visually based landscape interpretation to evaluate social perceptions of ecosystem services provided by the Conquense Drove Road transhumance landscape in Spain. Face-to-face questionnaires (N = 314) were given to a sample of local inhabitants, visitors, and urban inhabitants. The questionnaires contained two pairs of photographs depicting images of croplands and pine forests associated with the transhumance landscape, with one photograph in each pair containing a drove road. We compared the social perceptions of 16 ecosystem services supplied by these two landscapes. These 16 services were divided into 3 types: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits. We also identified differences between landscapes with and without a drove road. Overall, respondents recognized the higher capacity of forests to deliver a wider range of ecosystem services to society compared with croplands. Provisioning services were mostly associated with cropland, whereas regulating services and cultural ecosystem services tended to be related to forests. All three types of ecosystem services were more perceived by respondents when a drove road was present in each landscape. However, differences in the visual perception of ecosystem services supply and preference for transhumance landscapes emerged in relation to certain socio-demographic and cultural respondent characteristics such as a previous relationship with transhumance and agriculture, rural/urban origin and identity, environmental awareness, and cultural attachment to a place. Four groups of respondents had consistent and diverging ecosystem services appreciation, revealing various potential conflicts and trade-offs. We discuss the applicability and usefulness of the proposed approach for evaluating ecosystem services in cultural landscapes and for informing policy-making processes.

Key words

cropland; drove road; ecosystem services; Mediterranean landscapes; pine forest; transhumance; visual perception
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087