Exploring socio-cultural values of ecosystem service categories in the Central Alps: the influence of socio-demographic factors and landscape type

Brenda Maria Zoderer, Paola Sabina Lupo Stanghellini, Erich Tasser, Janette Walde, Harald Wieser, Ulrike Tappeiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The socio-cultural assessment of ecosystem services has been proposed as a promising tool for eliciting people’s preferences towards ecosystem services. Despite an increasing integration of the socio-cultural perspective in ecosystem service research, little knowledge exists about linkages between landscape and the socio-cultural values people assign to ecosystem services. This paper combines a socio-cultural valuation approach with the use of landscape pictures to analyse and compare people’s perceived importance of the provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem service categories across three landscape types (i.e. larch meadows, spruce forests, and hay meadow). A survey with 470 tourists visiting the region of South Tyrol (Italy) was conducted to link people’s perceived importance to their socio-demographic background and to the landscape types explored. The results show that regulating ecosystem services are preferred over provisioning and cultural services, whereby environmental awareness is found to be more influential than formal education levels regarding the perceived importance of regulating services. The results further demonstrate that cultural background is an important driver in determining people’s perceived importance of cultural services. The underlying landscape types, however, exert an even stronger influence on people’s socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem service categories. This finding suggests that the focus of most ecosystem services assessments on the study area as a whole risks mistakenly attributing differences in people’s socio-cultural values to socio-demographic characteristics only. A better knowledge of the spatial integration of socio-cultural values, however, could help with anticipating the consequences of changes in the landscape and provide better guidance for future landscape planning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2016


  • Ecosystem service category, Socio-cultural preference, Social valuation, Landscape pictures, Landscape, Paper-based questionnaire


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