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Mapping social values of ecosystem services: What is behind the map?

Laura Nahuelhual, Instituto de Economía Agraria, Universidad Austral de Chile; Centro FONDAP de Investigación en Dinámica de Ecosistemas Marinos de Altas Latitudes (IDEAL); Centro de Ciencia del Clima y la Resiliencia (CR2)
Felipe Benra Ochoa, Escuela de Ingeniería en conservación de Recursos Naturales, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Austral de Chile
Fernanda Rojas, Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra, Universidad Austral de Chile; Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Universidad Austral de Chile
G. Ignacio Díaz, Doctorado en Ciencias Forestales, Escuela de Graduados Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Austral de Chile; Instituto de Conservación, Biodiversidad y Territorio, Universidad Austral de Chile.
Alejandra Carmona, Centro de Ciencia del Clima y la Resiliencia (CR2)


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A growing interest in mapping the social value of ecosystem services (ES) is not yet methodologically aligned with what is actually being mapped. We critically examine aspects of the social value mapping process that might influence map outcomes and limit their practical use in decision making. We rely on an empirical case of participatory mapping, for a single ES (recreation opportunities), which involves diverse stakeholders such as planners, researchers, and community representatives. Value elicitation relied on an individual open-ended interview and a mapping exercise. Interpretation of the narratives and GIS calculations of proximity, centrality, and dispersion helped in exploring the factors driving participants’ answers. Narratives reveal diverse value types. Whereas planners highlighted utilitarian and aesthetic values, the answers from researchers revealed naturalistic values as well. In turn community representatives acknowledged symbolic values. When remitted to the map, these values were constrained to statements toward a much narrower set of features of the physical (e.g., volcanoes) and built landscape (e.g., roads). The results suggest that mapping, as an instrumental approach toward social valuation, may capture only a subset of relevant assigned values. This outcome is the interplay between participants’ characteristics, including their acquaintance with the territory and their ability with maps, and the mapping procedure itself, including the proxies used to represent the ES and the value typology chosen, the elicitation question, the cartographic features displayed on the base map, and the spatial scale.

Key words

cultural ecosystem services; recreation opportunities; social value mapping; southern Chile

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087