Assessing linkages between ecosystem services, land-use and well-being in an agroforestry landscape using public participation GIS

Nora Fagerholm, Elisa Oteros-Rozas, Christopher M. Raymond, Mario Torralba, Gerardo Moreno, and Tobias Plieninger
Applied Geography 74, 2016, 30-46
In this study of a Spanish agroforestry landscape, the international team of researchers mapped public place-based perceptions of the landscape, ecosystem services, and overall feelings of well-being. As has been shown in other papers, including those reported on by this blog, the mapping of cultural ecosystem services is a useful tool in understanding the place-based supply and demand of landscape features. In doing so, it helps inform decision-making and identify priorities for land management planning.
While public participation approaches to ecosystem services are not entirely new, even through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, linking the spatial distribution of these services to human well-being is a novel research aim. For many, well-being is a difficult concept to define clearly given its multi-dimensional nature, covering the totality of requirements for a happy healthy life. But increased self-perceived well-being has in many cases been linked to environmental and ecosystem amenities (access to outdoors, recreation, increased air quality, etc.), many of which can be linked to a specific place or landscape feature.
In pursuing the overall goals of the study, the researchers laid out their specific objectives:

  1. To quantify and map the spatial distribution, patterns and intensities of ecosystem services perception by local people and explore the differences between different actors;
  2. To compare and contrast the number and type of ecosystem services identified and their spatial relation to land cover, protected areas and common land patterns;
  3. To identify the linkages between the perception of landscape and subjective well-being;
  4. To explore the relationships between the ecosystem services demanded in different types of land covers and identified landscape values attached to subjective well-being and socio-demographic characteristics;
  5. To elucidate the specific contribution of agroforestry systems to the provision of ecosystem services (31).

With 219 survey respondents, representing more than 11,000 people in the four chosen municipalities, the researchers embarked on answering a novel research question, and one with value for many land-use managers interested in any of the above objectives for their own region.
According to the study, the GIS-based survey approach successfully captured “experience-based individual practices, uses and values related to these landscapes and related the direct and indirect ecosystem benefits to the actual people that derive and demand them” (40). Land tenure and public access had a significant impact on people’s use and perceptions of the landscape. And there is an emphasized role for more research which links this space between well-being and everyday places in the future.
To access the full paper, CLICK HERE.

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