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Socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services in a transhumance social-ecological network


The ecosystem services framework is receiving increasing attention in the fields of policy and research. The assessment of human attitudes and perceptions regarding ecosystem services has been proposed as a promising tool for addressing complex problems associated with environmental change, particularly in the context of cultural landscapes. Transhumance is not only a farming practice responsible for shaping cultural landscapes but also an adaptive strategy based on mobility that may represent a useful approach to overcoming the growing challenges posed by accelerated environmental change. A socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services associated with the Conquense Drove Road, one of the major transhumant networks still in use in Mediterranean Spain, was conducted via the distribution of questionnaires to 416 local residents and visitors to capture their perceptions regarding the importance of 34 ecosystem services (10 provisioning, 12 regulating, and 12 cultural) for both social and personal well-being. Overall, the ecosystem services considered to be the most important for social well-being were fire prevention, air purification and livestock. Most of the ecosystem services in question were perceived as declining, with the exception of those associated with recreation, scientific knowledge and environmental education. This study revealed that perceptions regarding the value of ecosystem services differed among respondents, depending on their age, place of origin and gender. Several methodological issues, as well as the implications of socio-cultural valuation for policy making, are also discussed here.

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    Particularly in the summering area, the ditches (where herbaceous vegetation tends to proliferate due to higher humidity) are grazed by sheep, hence avoiding accumulation of potentially inflammable biomass and facilitating the drainage of rain so that roads are not flooded. The cleaning of biomass from the ditches is usually performed mechanically, but sheep grazing also delivers this service.


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This research has been financed by the Spanish Ministry for the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (Project 079/RN08/02.1) and the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project CGL2011-30266). E.O.R. was partially funded by a grant by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and hosted by the Ecosystem Services Research Group at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Germany) during manuscript elaboration. T.P.’s contribution was funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (FKZ 01UU 0904A). We acknowledge all interviewees and respondents for kindly sharing their knowledge and time. We thank: Marina García-Llorente and Irene Iniesta-Arandia for comments on the survey design; Jessica Cobo, Isabel Díaz-Reviriego, Lucía Galeán, Erik Gómez- Baggethun, Esther González-Martín, Violeta Hevia, Irene Iniesta-Arandia and Ricardo Ontillera-Sánchez for field assistance; Sergio Puente for assistance with the survey coding; Ignacio Palomo for map design. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their comments on a previous version.

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Correspondence to Elisa Oteros-Rozas.


Appendix 1

See Table 3.

Table 3 Classification of ecosystem services assessed, descriptions, examples and correspondence classification according to Millennium Assessment (MA; description based on de Groot et al. 2002)

Appendix 2

See Table 4.

Table 4 Panels used in the survey for the identification of ecosystem services

Appendix 3

See Table 5.

Table 5 Ecosystem service preferences

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Oteros-Rozas, E., Martín-López, B., González, J.A. et al. Socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services in a transhumance social-ecological network. Reg Environ Change 14, 1269–1289 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0571-y

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  • Drove roads
  • Ecosystem services
  • Human well-being
  • Perception
  • Rangelands
  • Spatial and temporal locations
  • Value