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Experiential key species for the nature-disconnected generation

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... In his 'Letter from the conservation front line', Battisti (2016) proposed a new category of conservation-related species: the Experiential Key Species (EKS). These are species that are common in urban areas, or nearby ecosystems, and can be used to stimulate familiarization with local fauna for new generations that are progressively disconnected from nature. ...
... These are species that are common in urban areas, or nearby ecosystems, and can be used to stimulate familiarization with local fauna for new generations that are progressively disconnected from nature. According to Battisti (2016), EKS species should be (i) widely distributed and locally abundant, (ii) easy to engage with and (iii) convey emotions for their intrinsic traits. I agree that species and ecosystems close to urban areas may represent an important source of stimuli for people that are progressively losing any contact with nature, however, I urge the addition of a fourth criterion for selecting EKS species: they must be native. ...
... The emotional connection, established between urban squirrels and park visitors, however, could lead to the desire to have those animals close to home, with the risk of translocations to new areas (Signorile et al., 2016). I am sure that this is not one of the outcomes that Battisti (2016) was advocating for in his appeal for species to act as a conservation-relevant EKS. ...
... Recently, it was suggested that, in each site-based conservation strategy, particular attention should be devoted to the selection of Experiential Key Species (Battisti, 2016;hereafter EKS). EKS are "key" because, although constituting a small part of wildlife of an area, they may play a strategic role in communicating to new generations, through a true direct experience, the importance of natural ecosystems. ...
... more particularly, these species should: (i) be relatively widely distributed and abundant in the site, (ii) stimulate a direct experience, and (iii) induce emotions and promote play for their intrinsic eco-behavioral traits (easy detectability, peculiar life cycle, etc.; Battisti, 2016). In this note, it has been highlighted as it is urgent to define local checklists of EKS in sites with high urban people frequentation. ...
... as suggested in Battisti (2016) and considering these results, we may individuate lakes, ponds, and streams and their shores (all suitable habitats for the EKS with highest m exp ) as EKS priority areas in conservation planning (see also the suggestions in Jacobson, 1990). In such sites, context-related exhibits (e.g., educational kiosks, point markers, tables, displays; Jacobson et al., 2006) can be installed, as effective tools for a trans-disciplinary conservation message. ...
Article
In urbanized contexts, a progressive disconnection from nature, mainly experienced by the youngest generation, is evident. In this sense, detection of species more suitable for a nature-related experience becomes of primary importance to increase pro-environmental behaviors in children. Here, we propose a simple, quick, and explorative procedure for selecting a set of Experiential Key Species (EKS). Two practical examples are provided for two contexts (a urban park and a suburban wetland) where a large amount of data on vertebrate animal species are available. Depending on their density and eco-behavioral features, each species stimulates different experiences, here considered as a product of intensity and frequency of occurrence. Therefore, for each species we calculated an Experiential Magnitude score on a three-level scale with an expert-based method. We obtained 14 EKS in the urban park site (18% of total) and 18 EKS in the suburban wetland site (9.4%). We observed that in both sites EKS mainly include: (i) heterotherm species (mainly, fishes, amphibians, and water-related reptiles) and (ii) non-native species (about 36% in the urban park and about 17% in the suburban wetland). This information suggests that (i) following a conservation zoning approach, lakes, streams, and their shores may be considered the best experiential sites for children, and (ii) in conservation measures aimed to improve experience and pro-environmental behaviors in younger generations, the role of non-native species (that are of low or null conservation interest) might be relevant. In-deed, individuals of these species (i) are easily detectable, and (ii) may be collected, handled, and farmed with a limited (or absent) impact on biodiversity. In many anthropized contexts, these are the only species that can provide nature experience for younger generations. Based on our observations, we recommend practitioners (i) to adopt the procedure of EKS selection in critical contexts, also adding further regime attributes (area utilized, seasonal duration) to calculate the experiential magnitude score, and (ii) to test the effectiveness of this selection in conservation education projects.
... In their native ranges (North America, excluding Apalone spinifera, which also occurs in Central America), they inhabit a variety of freshwater habitats with abundant vegetation, including ponds and lakes (Ernst & Lovich 2009;Francis 2012). Secondly, larger ponds might attract more people (e.g. for aesthetic reasons or as key sites for children ;Battisti 2016), so that animals may receive supplementary food resource from humans in these areas (Bujes 2009). In this latter case, a positive feedback between people and non-native turtles might arise (i.e. ...
... illegal trade at regional/national scale; people releasing turtles at local scale), improved specific regulations, control, communication and education efforts directed to increasing the awareness of the impact of these species on native biodiversity is suggested. In this sense, freshwater species might be considered experiential key species (Battisti 2016); that is, species useful to promote proenvironmental behaviours through the communication of their impacts. The second, considering pressures, an eradication effort should be promoted by public agencies at the scale of single AWBs. ...
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The patterns of the occurrence and distribution of alien freshwater turtle species in an urban pond archipelago (Rome, Italy) were analysed, with the aim of exploring the role of a set of factors (type of ponds, landscape context, size area, distance from the nearest road) with a generalized linear model approach. A total of 311 ponds subdivided in three types (fountains, small basins, lakes) embedded in different landscape contexts (public parks, private parks, urban areas) at differing distances from the nearest road were sampled. Six non-native freshwater turtle species in 31 sites were recorded (9.97%). Lakes exhibited the highest occurrence rates of alien freshwater turtles, compared to small basins and fountains. Freshwater turtle species in urbanized areas were only observed in parks (both public and private). In both the public and private parks, the lakes exhibited the highest percentage of occupied sites, with fountains being the lowest. A direct and significant relationship was observed between pond size and species richness. The distance from the nearest road did not appear to affect species richness. A first interpretation of the data from this study facilitated the postulation of two a posteriori hypotheses that should be tested, as follows: (i) the causal process of turtle release is random, and the rate of extinction (and recapture) is higher in smaller ponds, thus producing the observed pattern; and (ii) the turtle release is not random, and people actively select the ponds they consider more suitable for their pet animals. In this study, it appears the lakes were perceived by those who abandon their pets as the most ecologically suitable habitats among other pond types to accommodate the different species of turtles. Knowledge of people's attitudes in regard to releasing pet animals also might assist managers of public green spaces to develop strategies aimed to preserve local biodiversity, and to educate the public about the conservation issue represented by the alien species.
... However, we must also take into account how facilitating these otherwise rare encounters may influence how users perceive and care about their local wildlife. Indeed, Battisti argues that communication of exotic and charismatic wildlife may contribute to conservation efforts at the expense of local species, and that while engaging with Pandas may be enjoyable and important, connection with local biodiversity cannot be overlooked [9]. That is, we may expend our empathy and advocacy to those species with whom we have connected with via XR as opposed to those in our own backyard that may otherwise be small or out-of-reach. ...
... Targets may be selected using different criteria, as its status and concern (red lists, Annexes of Directives, etc.), eco-biogeographic value, role as proxy and its socio-economical and cultural role (e.g. key, umbrella, focal, sentinel, charismatic, experiential species; Caro & O'Doherty, 1999;Caro, 2010;Battisti, 2016). This step can include field studies as well as assessment using analytical or expert-based approach, assigning scores to rank different targets. ...
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Project Management, as the trans-disciplinary arena with the aim to solve problems through operational strategies and actions, represents a wide technical dominion in which a large number of concepts, tools and approaches (CTAs), have been developed to make effective projects. In this review, I selected a large number of old and recent CTAs scarcely used in operational conservation practices, and included them in the classic Hocking’ IUCN project management cycle. This arrangement has been synthesized in a star-shaped conceptual framework where each CTA has been placed and might be opportunistically utilized, when necessary, in an environmental-based project. For every CTA, I reported the definition with the related basic references, a rationale and some hypothetical and/or real examples in nature conservation, depending on availability of specific literature. I foster a trans-disciplinary use of these operational CTAs to improve the effectiveness of projects and to provide further opportunities for the new generation of professionals.
... In anthropized habitats, non-native invasive species are often widespread and abundant, they are easily visible and can in some cases be easily handled by children. Therefore, these species could be selected as experiential key species (EKS; Battisti, 2016), i.e. species that can be used to stimulate familiarisation with local ecosystems, thus communicating ecological concepts and conservation issues to naturedisconnected generations. In contexts where nature awareness is poor and the nature-deficit high, the use of EKS may represent a valuable option which can raise community awareness for true conservation actions (Salafsky et al., 2002). ...
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Many practices have been proposed in conservation education to facilitate a re-connection between nature and the young digital generation in anthropized contexts. In this paper we suggest that, at least in some specific circumstances (urban and suburban areas), non-native invasive species may have a paradoxical and positive impact in conservation education strategies, playing a role as an experiential tool, which represents a cultural ecosystem service, i.e. an ecosystem service that produces cultural benefits by improving pro-environmental behaviours in young people.
... In areas where such a strategy is not possible, due to socio-economic and environmental constraints, it is necessary to be aware that small ponds cannot host wild species but may support domestic taxa. Such domesticated species may play an important experiential role for urban dwellers, for example to mitigate nature-deficit disorders among younger nature-disconnected generations (Battisti 2016;Battisti & Zocchi 2018). ...
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We sampled 70 urban ponds (0.001 to >1 ha) in Rome, Italy, to obtain richness and abundance data for wintering wild birds and domestic birds in relation to pond size. The aim was to test the hypothesis that the species-area relationship differs between wild and domestic birds, with the presence of the latter linked with anthropogenic factors, not pond area. We detected eight domesticated avian taxa and 19 wild species at 26 sites. Whereas there was a significant relationship between the number of wild bird species and pond area, the diversity of domestic taxa appeared not to be correlated with area (power function; Levenberg-Marquardt approach). Species-area relationships showed a lower variance in domestic taxa when compared with wild species. As smaller ponds in urban landscapes can host a higher number of domestic taxa than wild species, there may be implications both for increasing risk of disease transmission and for biodiversity perception among urban citizens.
... Among other generational differences, the comparatively lower affinity to nature of our younger participants, suggests a disconnectedness of youth from nature cf. [62][63][64][65]. This finding is not necessarily surprising since older respondents in other case studies similarly found outdoor recreation in rural areas more important [27], appreciated the aesthetic beauty of the landscape more [49], or even reported a greater well-being associated with green spaces, and more involvement in nature-related activities than younger people [52]. ...
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Agricultural landscapes play an important role in providing different ecosystem services. However, the current trend of land use intensification in Central Europe involves the risk of trade-offs between them. Since cultural ecosystem services (CES) are less tangible, they are often underrepresented in landscape management decisions. To highlight this subject we evaluated CES in agro-ecosystems in the biosphere reserve Swabian Alb (Southwestern Germany). We conducted a survey among visitors to investigate their usage of the landscape, their perception as well as valuation of CES, and interrelations with biodiversity. The results show the presence of various types of usage related to cultural services, the most prominent being recreation and landscape aesthetics. People declared a high affinity to nature and biodiversity awareness. A participatory mapping task revealed their appreciation of biodiverse and ecologically relevant places such as protected species-rich grasslands, traditional orchards and hedgerows. Several socio-demographic differences emerged, e.g., between age classes and local/non-local visitors. We conclude that our exemplary methodical approach was successful in capturing the CES and their link to biodiversity in the investigated biosphere reserve, while identifying priority fields of action concerning the integration of CES into management and planning of cultural landscapes, ultimately serving as guides for local decision-makers.
... Therefore, it was confirmed that in ecosystem services in urban regions, the degree of psychological benefit was positively correlated with the species richness of the plants [28,60,71]. In fact, previous research stated that some species could be used as experiential key species for nature-disconnected generations, especially for children to reduce the nature deficit disorder [72]. In the case of indigenous communities, it is also linked to essential features of their cultural identity. ...
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... Proposed strategic actions against deforestation and forest degradation by community members from the FGD and KII include agroforestry to reduce pressure on the forest for fuelwood and fodder, diversification of livelihoods, adoption of improved and modern farming methods for optimum production, enhanced forest monitoring through recruitment of forest scouts and clear demarcation of the forest boundary to reduce encroachment into the forest. In order to improve the well-being, experience and potential Pro-Environmental Behaviors (PEB) of new generations of humanity, there is also a need to use most plant and animal species in the study area as Experiential Key Species (EKS) to avoid an irreversible disconnect from an engagement with nature (Battisti, 2016). ...
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Authenticity is something we cannot escape taking into consideration, when dealing with landscape conservation and management, or with cultural heritage. Neither can we escape from dealing with authenticity, when it concerns landscape experience and important feelings linked to that, such as identity, responsibility and belongingness. One can try to get around it, inventing what could perhaps be claimed to be more objective and precise aspects, but authenticity will still be there, explicitly or hidden, but thrusting itself on us, forcing us to discuss it, and to evaluate its consequences. Maybe we should argue, right from the beginning, that authenticity should be emphasized more than today, and that it therefore also needs to be more fully understood. It should be emphasized more, because it also indirectly touches several other basic dimensions and aspects, such as the need for more integrative, overall evaluations and the respect for local territories as special landscapes. In a wider sense it comprises ethics, emotional feelings, perspectives held and initiatives taken in the future, and also creative aspects, involving both learning and aesthetics. It is a term which can be given an absolute definition, but more important: it is one of the key terms for communication in an action-oriented planning and management process, linking the past with the future.
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The growing recognition that the social sciences play a key role in conservation requires more efficient ways for working together toward a common mission. A new field of conservation psychology is proposed to create stronger connections between the natural and social sciences, between research and practice, and between psychology and the other social sciences. The purpose of such a network is to conduct psychological research that is directly oriented toward the goal of environmental sustainability. To better understand the promise of conservation psychology, it is compared to other fields, such as conservation biology and environmental psychology. Potential conservation psychology research topics are discussed in relation to two broad outcome areas: a) motivating people to act in more environmentally-friendly ways and b) encouraging people to care about the natural world and their role in it. Within these outcome areas, research can be focused at the individual or the group level. The type of research will range from more theoretical approaches to more applied, and examples are provided for such a continuum. The dynamic process by which social scientists and practitioners identify high-priority research questions is another important aspect of conservation psychology.
Article
In the future, virtual reality technology will allow people to experience nature in a simulated environment—virtual nature. This article examines the implications of the availability of virtual nature experiences in three research studies. The first study showed that people would be interested in owning a virtual nature system and have a variety of expected uses for it. The second study showed that the commercial media’s presentation of nature tends to cause people to devalue their emotional experience of local natural areas. The third study showed that one of the effects of simulated nature experiences is to increase support for the preservation of national parks and forests, but it decreases support for the acquisition and preservation of local natural areas. Overall, these results suggest some of the dangers of the increasing use of information technology to simulate environments for people to experience. Widespread use of virtual nature could reduce support for the preservation of local natural environments, and these environments play a key role in the global ecology.
Article
An appreciation of wet habitats is happily being engendered through the now prominent use of pond‐dipping in both formal teaching in primary schools and informal work at field centres and country parks. Yet wetlands (marshes, bogs, swamps, carrs and river meadows) are greatly threatened habitats for which education is not stemming a tide of destruction.Underlying this is a low perception of their value as natural systems by an adult community that regards them as undesirable, dangerous places. This perception may be innate, the product of long evolutionary association with the negative aspects of wetlands such as disease and impenetrability. Or it may arise simply by learned conditioning, ultimately based on common sense but, in the technological world, at least, no longer justified.A test of these hypotheses ‐innate versus conditioned perception ‐was carried out by gathering the views of 183 children aged 6/7 (top infants) and 10/11 (top juniors) in three schools. An innate perception would mean that perception of wetlands was highly negative from the outset and stayed much the same or even improved with age and experience. A conditioned response might be indicated by a view that became more negative with age.Data were gathered by means of a questionnaire in which the children chose adjectives they associated with particular animals or habitats and an interview in which they were shown pictures of habitats and asked for their reactions. Perceptions of infants towards bogs and marshes were consistently more positive than those of juniors whilst perceptions of woodlands improved with age. Perceptions of a variety of animals did not change with age and were much as might be expected, lending credibility to the findings concerning habitats.It is concluded that conditioning leads to negative adult perceptions of wetlands. This conditioning may come from literature, television or orally and it is not possible to rank these sources. However, a wealth of evidence does suggest that wetlands are negatively portrayed in junior and adult fiction but more positively in that written for infants. Teachers of juniors may thus have a key role to play in the conservation of wetlands by attempting positively to counteract the insidious influences of sources of misinformation.
Article
Three experiments were designed to test the hypothesis that exposure to restorative environments facilitates recovery from mental fatigue. To this end, participants were first mentally fatigued by performing a sustained attention test; then they viewed photographs of restorative environments, nonrestorative environments or geometrical patterns; and finally they performed the sustained attention test again. Only participants exposed to the restorative environments improved their performance on the final attention test, and this improvement occurred whether they viewed the scenes in the standardized time condition or in the self-paced time condition. Results are in agreement with Kaplan's [(1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169–182] attention restoration theory, and support the idea that restorative environments help maintain and restore the capacity to direct attention.
Article
To date, research on the effects of urbanization, which include reduced biodiversity, has focused on changes at particular sites or along gradients of urbanization. Comparatively little work has investigated changes in biodiversity at any citywide—much less global—scale, and no attempt has been made to quantify such changes in human terms. We have developed a novel data set that reveals a systematic pattern of biodiversity: Within cities worldwide, most residents are concentrated in neighborhoods of impoverished biodiversity. This pattern exists despite substantial biodiversity present in cities overall, and becomes more severe when only native species are considered. As humanity becomes increasingly urban, these findings have a tragic and seldom-considered consequence: Billions of people may lose the opportunity to benefit from or develop an appreciation of nature. Because nearby surroundings shape people's baselines of ecological health, our findings suggest adverse consequences for conservation in general as well as for humans' quality of life if the problem remains uncorrected.
Article
Naming, listing and measuring human-induced threats in protected areas are crucial in conservation. Here, we defined a check-list of direct threats in a Mediterranean remnant wetland (central Italy), managed as nature reserve, grouping them according to a taxonomically-oriented nomenclature. We assessed three regime parameters (scope, severity, and magnitude) applying an experience-based method, then comparing the assessments obtained from two different level of expertise: a panel of independent people, upper level “university students” in an applied ecology class; and a panel of “experts” as nature reserve biologists and managers. Despite observing a significant correlation among values assigned from students and experts for each regime parameter, students underestimated the scope of feral dogs, the severity of fires and the magnitude of feral dogs and water stress. Considering only the magnitude values (sum of scope and severity), students assigned the higher values to alien species, antropophilous species, aircraft, and pollution, while the experts assigned the higher values to antropophilous species, aircraft, alien species, and water stress. In an order of priority, there was an agreement between students and experts with a coincidence for three threats out of four. We suppose that a panel of students with a short academic training could be useful to a get a first order of priority in regard to a set of local selected threats, with much similarity to the assessment obtained from a panel of experts. When threat metrics are difficult to compare, experience-based approach obtained from technicians trained adhoc (“students”) could be useful to define priorities for management strategies in nature reserves, but data obtained should be examined critically. Indeed, students may assign higher scores to regime parameters of threats more readily identified and perceivable, underestimating the threats with an inconstant regime, localized in time and space, mobile, or cryptic. If experience-based methods are used to define scale of priorities, these issues need to be considered.
Article
The well-being of the workforce is clearly a matter of concern to the employer. Such concern translates to considerable costs in the form of fringe benefit packages, health promotion programs, ergonomics, and other ways to reduce absence and enhance health and satisfaction. Despite such efforts, however, one way to address well-being that entails relatively low costs has been largely ignored in the work context. Proximity and availability of the natural environment can foster many desired outcomes, even if the employee does not spend a great amount of time in the natural setting. A theoretical framework is presented that helps explain why even the view from the window can have a positive impact with respect to well-being. Results from two studies offer some substantiation. Further research on the role of nature in the workplace is essential; however, decisions to provide health promoting programs and to enhance fringe benefit packages have not been offered as a direct consequence of empirical verification. While providing windows at work may not be a simple matter, other ways to increase contact with vegetation may provide a low-cost, high-gain approach to employee well-being and effectiveness. Peer Reviewed http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/30542/1/0000175.pdf
Article
Biodiversity loss is a matter of great concern among conservation scientists, but the wherewithal to reverse this trend is generally lacking. One reason is that nearly half of the world's people live in urban areas and are increasingly disconnected from nature. If there is to be broad-based public support for biodiversity conservation, the places where people live and work should be designed so as to provide opportunities for meaningful interactions with the natural world. Doing so has the potential not only to engender support for protecting native species, but also to enhance human well-being. Accomplishing these goals will necessitate conservation scientists forging new collaborations with design professionals, health practitioners and social scientists, as well as encouraging the participation of the general public.
Article
Conservation science is replete with analyses of threats to biodiversity. The IUCN even has a formal taxonomy of threats to imperiled species that can be used to tally up global inventories of threats across taxa or geographies (1). Habitat loss and habitat degradation are touted as the greatest threats, with global warming now also recognized as a major problem along with species introductions (2). However, in a recent issue of PNAS, Pergams and Zaradic (3) show a trend in human behavior that ultimately may be far more foreboding for the environment than even declining tropical forest cover or increasing greenhouse gas emissions: widespread declines in nature-based recreation.
Children & nature worldwide: An exploration of children's experiences of the outdoors and nature with associated risks and benefits www
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