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Not too small to benefit society: insights into perceived cultural ecosystem services of mountain lakes in the European Alps

Uta Schirpke, Institute for Alpine Environment, Eurac Research; Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck
Rocco Scolozzi, Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento; -skop├Ča s.r.l. Anticipation Services┬«
Ulrike Tappeiner, Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck; Institute for Alpine Environment, Eurac Research


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Although the importance of lakes for providing cultural ecosystem services (CES) is widely recognized, the integration of associated values and benefits in decision making is still underdeveloped. Therefore, this study aimed at collecting and analyzing people’s perceptions related to various CES of mountain lakes using an online questionnaire. We thereby distinguished societal values in terms of CES from individual experiences that contribute to subjective well-being and elicited perceived pressures reducing the quality of nature-based experiences. Based on 526 responses, our results indicate that bequest, symbolic, aesthetic, and spiritual values are perceived as most important, while representation and entertainment were less important. Accordingly, experiences such as connection to nature, relaxation, and freedom had the highest values. In terms of pressures, crowdedness was mentioned most often, followed by noisiness and garbage. These pressures mostly affected experiences such as connection to nature, freedom, relaxation, peace, and memories, with negative effects also on CES, mainly on aesthetic value, sense of place, existence value, and symbolic value. In general, the perceptions were highly consistent across different socio-cultural groups. Nevertheless, some differences emerged between groups with different cultural backgrounds with respect to CES and pressures, while differences in experiences were mostly related to gender. Our findings advance the understanding of CES related to mountain lakes and provide useful insights for research as well as decision and policy making, emphasizing the high intrinsic value expressed by the respondents as well as the variety of CES and experiences associated with mountain lakes. Moreover, the identified pressures provide a valuable basis for consideration in tourism management, the protection of natural resources, and sustainable development because they advance our understanding of how infrastructure development and socioeconomic changes may aggravate impacts on societal values and individual experiences.

Key words

group differences; mountain regions; nature’s contributions to people; perception survey; subjective well-being; trade-offs

Copyright © 2022 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work 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