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People think there's no nature in cities, but they want to know more

Natalia C Piland, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago
Estrella Velásquez-Ruíz, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana, Iquitos, Peru
Cristina Palao-Lambarri, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru
Mario Caller, Laboratorio de Ecosalud y Ecología Urbana, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru
Xiomara A Valdivia-Zavaleta, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana, Iquitos, Peru


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We surveyed urban residents to study their knowledge, engagement, perception, and curiosity of bird biodiversity in four Peruvian cities in two different ecosystems (Lima and Huacho in the Pacific desert, and Nauta and Iquitos in the western Amazon). Surveys also included questions on social variables such as age, gender, education, outdoor activities, and years residing in the area. Bird point counts were carried out in the same sites where residents were surveyed. These sites were also visually assessed for greenspace cover and distance to nearest landmarks. Exploratory analyses (principal components analyses and factor analysis of mixed data) were carried out on environmental and survey data to summarize and select correlated variables for multivariate linear models. Amazonian city residents had higher “knowledge” and “engagement” scores than residents in the desert cities. Best performing models predicting “knowledge” scores suggested that urban residents learned about birds outside of the formal education sphere, although there were no strong common patterns among cities or in the full dataset. “Engagement” scores in the desert cities seemed to be linked to local and neighborhood greenspace and education, suggesting socioeconomic class plays a role. The overwhelming majority of all four cities’ respondents scored highly in “perception” and “curiosity” measures, implying that orientation toward nature is not lost in these four cities and that finding and promoting the human–nature connection in urban areas is a matter of asking the right questions and promoting existing nature practices and perspectives.

Key words

extinction of experience; human–nature connection; mixed methods; Peru; urban avian biodiversity

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087