Identifying and mapping the tourists' perception of cultural ecosystem services: A case study from an Alpine region

Land Use Policy 56, 2016, 251–261
Brenda Maria Zoderer, Erich Tasser, Karl-Heinz Erb, Paola Sabina Lupo Stranghellini, Ulrike Tappeiner
Any given landscape provides a vast array of values and services to the people who visit and inhabit its space. But research on what are termed “cultural ecosystem services” remains rare. Cultural ecosystem services refer to the “nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005, 40). In other words, they represents the multitude of intangible benefits people receive from nature. Now we know these benefits to be intrinsically true, as we recognize the personal significance of places in our own lives. But by aggregating these benefits, and understanding how pronounced they are, we can have a deeper understanding of places’ cultural significance. This knowledge, in turn, can help to guide management.
In this paper, researchers adopt and test a framework to identify and map the provision of cultural ecosystem services in an Alpine region of northern Italy. Using a photo-based questionnaire survey, responses were categorized into four different types of cultural ecosystem services – opportunity for leisure, aesthetic beauty, spirituality, and cultural heritage. The perceived services were then connected to the different land-use types presented in the photographs. These can then be presented in a figure like the one below, showing how commonly a particular cultural ecosystem service is appreciated among respondents.
Zoderer et al.
The results presented in this study offer “a basis for the design, regional implementation, and evaluation of land use policies” (259). Understanding perceived ecosystem services provide evidence for cultural associations to a landscape, be that between tourists and a landscape, or its residents. Furthermore, the findings here provide support for efforts to link tourism in cooperation with agriculture, and to seek out income sources through agrotourism. Finally, this study emphasizes the importance of managing landscapes and ecosystems for multiple cultural services, and strengthening connections between people and place over time.
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