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Perceptions of ecosystem services

“Ecosystem services such as food provisioning, climate regulation, nutrient cycling, or recreation in open landscapes underpin human wellbeing. They are highly dependent on land use, land cover and utilization pattern as well as environmental factors like climate, topography and soil. In consequence, ecosystem services supply shows a high spatial variability. However, it is less clear if the perception of the importance of ecosystem services is similarly heterogeneous in space and amongst societal actors. The aim of this large-scale study was to explore whether land cover and climate gradients as well as socio-cultural factors influence the perceptions of ecosystem services of four groups of societal actors: citizens, farmers, foresters and nature managers. Spatially explicit survey data of 3018 respondents allowed to gain insight into the distribution of perceived importance of 21 ecosystem services in the federal state of Bavaria, Germany together with the respondents’ socio-cultural characterisation (e.g. gender, education and hobbies in nature). Responses were analysed through descriptive statistics, redundancy analysis, and Generalized Linear Models. Results reveal that the perceived importance of many ecosystem services was consistently high across groups, although perception differed for some ecosystem services (e.g. production of energy plants and timber as well as recreation in urban green space). Compared to other actor groups, farmers attributed slightly lower importance to all ES except provisioning services. Socio-cultural factors better explained variability in perceived importance of ecosystem services than land cover and climate gradients. This might be either explained by the fact that the environmental gradients vary not strong enough in our case study or that they do not shape the perceptions of respondents. A limitation of the study is that the sample of respondents obtained is not representative for the population, but biased towards persons interested in the topics of the survey. Still the consensus indicated by the overall positive perception of ecosystem services among respondents highlights the integrative potential of ecosystem services when included in decision-making.” Acces via PlosOne