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Conservation easements are the fastest growing private conservation strategy in the United States. However, mechanisms to assess private land conservation as well as their support by the general public are not well understood. This study uses the ecosystem services framework for assessing existing private lands in Idaho and identifies areas for future conservation easements. Using conservation targets of the land trust as a guide for selecting ecosystem services, we (a) mapped the spatial delivery of conservation targets across public and private lands, (b) explored public awareness in terms of social importance and vulnerability, and (c) mapped future priority areas by characterizing conservation bundles. We found that public lands provided the highest levels of conservation targets, and we found no difference in conservation target provision between private areas and conservation easements. The spatial characterization of conservation target bundles identified potential future priority areas for conservation easements, which can guide planning of land trust conservation efforts.
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An interdisciplinary assessment of private conservation areas
in the Western United States
Cristina Quintas-Soriano , Dainee M. Gibson, Jodi S. Brandt,
´guez, Javier Cabello, Pedro A. Aguilera,
Antonio J. Castro
Received: 25 August 2019 / Revised: 28 December 2019 / Accepted: 30 January 2020
Abstract Conservation easements are the fastest growing
private conservation strategy in the United States.
However, mechanisms to assess private land conservation
as well as their support by the general public are not well
understood. This study uses the ecosystem services
framework for assessing existing private lands in Idaho
and identifies areas for future conservation easements.
Using conservation targets of the land trust as a guide for
selecting ecosystem services, we (a) mapped the spatial
delivery of conservation targets across public and private
lands, (b) explored public awareness in terms of social
importance and vulnerability, and (c) mapped future
priority areas by characterizing conservation bundles. We
found that public lands provided the highest levels of
conservation targets, and we found no difference in
conservation target provision between private areas and
conservation easements. The spatial characterization of
conservation target bundles identified potential future
priority areas for conservation easements, which can
guide planning of land trust conservation efforts.
Keywords Conservation bundles Ecosystem services
Private lands Protected areas Social-ecological systems
Transdisciplinary science
The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD 1992) urges
to establish a system of protected areas for the in situ
preservation of global biodiversity and maintenance of
ecosystem services (ES, defined as the benefits that humans
obtain from ecosystems; MEA 2005). Consequently, there
is a political goal to integrate 17% of the land surface into a
global protected area network by 2020 (CBD 2010). Due to
limited resources availability for establishing new pro-
tected areas, countries are required to design and imple-
ment complementary area-based conservation policies
(CBD 2010). In this sense, governments are encouraged to
cooperate with private initiatives in developing methods
for promoting conservation strategies in collaboration with
local agencies and NGOs.
In recent decades, the implementation of conservation
strategies on private lands, hereafter private conservation
areas (Pasquini et al. 2010), is increasingly being recog-
nized as a strategy to complement current protected areas
networks (Cortes-Campano et al. 2019). Currently, private
conservation areas protect several million hectares of nat-
ural habitat and cultural landscapes across the world (e.g.,
Jones et al. 2005; Sims-Castley et al. 2005). These new
private conservation efforts are commonly implemented by
practitioners as a strategy to deliver benefits to society that
contribute to social-welfare goals, for instance, through job
creation where the land is managed for recreational activ-
ities and other profitable business (Chacon 2005; Rambaldi
et al. 2005). However, despite the interest of many coun-
tries to develop new conservation initiatives, the contri-
bution of these areas to the preservation of biodiversity and
ES is difficult to assess. Hence, new methodological
approaches are required to further understand the contri-
bution of these spaces to global conservation targets
(Merenlender et al. 2004; Pasquini et al. 2010).
In the United States (U.S.), conservation easements
stand out as the fastest growing private conservation
strategy (Dayer et al. 2016). Conservation easements are
legally binding, voluntary conservation agreements on
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
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plementary material, which is available to authorized users.
ÓThe Author(s) 2020 123
private lands that do not transfer ownership of the land, but
define limitations to future development or management
rights (Rissman 2013; Quinn and Wood 2017). The
majority of conservation easements are promoted by local
and state land trusts, which are non-governmental organi-
zations that conserve land by negotiating and/or purchasing
land in order to preserve it for natural, historical, personal,
or economic values (Stolton et al. 2014; Peters et al. 2017).
Over the last 30 years, the number of conservation ease-
ments on private land in the United States has increased
exponentially in order to protect natural and agricultural
resources (Merelinder et al. 2004; Stolton et al. 2014).
Currently, over 1700 land trusts are conserving more than
19 million hectares in the U.S. (Peters et al. 2017).
Since land trusts are generally small organizations that
act independently, each land trust and individual conser-
vation easement has its own conservation targets. For
example, different easements in Virginia and North Car-
olina have different management priorities when it comes
to bird watching and water purification (Villamagna et al.
2015). In the western U.S., public protected areas protect
more land than private protected areas, but private land
conservation via conservation easements has become a
popular alternative to underfunded and controversial public
acquisition techniques (Brunson and Huntsinger 2008).
Especially as large tracts of public protected areas have
been downgraded or sold, the value of conservation ease-
ments has become more visible in the region (Defries et al.
2007; Villamagna et al. 2015). These conservation ease-
ments have emerged as a means to save traditional ranch-
ing culture, protect the landscape from exurban
subdivisions, preserve open space, safeguard rangeland
ecosystems, and maintain the cultural heritage of ranching
(Brunson and Huntsinger 2008). Therefore, conservation
easements protect valuable benefits of the landscape while
allowing traditional use of the land. Under the law, con-
servation easements protect the land in perpetuity. To
ensure that the legal framework for land conservation will
endure, all land trusts are committed to building strong
public support for land conservation (Stolton et al. 2014).
Furthermore, despite the increase in conservation ease-
ments in land conservation, the public remains largely
unaware of this private land approach to conservation
(Villamagna et al. 2017). Implementing on-the-ground
conservation actions on private land mostly depends on
landowners’ willingness to collaborate with conservation
agencies and their management capabilities (Bastian et al.
2017; Vizek and Nielsen-Pincus 2017; Cortes-Campano
et al. 2019).
The ES framework provides several tools that can be
used to advance in the assessment of private conservation
areas. For instance, the bundle analyses distinguish groups
of ES (i.e., conservation targets) that are produced on the
landscape with similar provision levels, and the different
bundles can characterize the range of opportunities for
future conservation areas (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010;
Queiroz et al. 2015; Quintas-Soriano et al. 2019). However,
the major challenge for operationalizing ES bundle anal-
yses is to integrate public perceptions and preferences with
conservation goals. Here, we propose an interdisciplinary
methodological approach for assessing existing conserva-
tion easements of a regional land trust in Idaho, U.S. First,
we quantify and map the spatial provision of the five
conservation targets and compare across public protected
areas, private lands, and existing conservation easements.
Second, we explore public perceptions regarding conser-
vation targets in terms of social importance and vulnera-
bility. Third, we identify additional private areas where
conservation targets are preserved and socially supported.
Finally, we discuss the potential for these areas to be
declared as future private conservation areas, and the
implications of this approach for conservation in other
Study area: The Portneuf River watershed
and the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust
The Portneuf River watershed is located in SE Idaho, U.S.
(Fig. 1a). This region has a semi-arid climate of hot and dry
summers and moderately long winters. Rangeland covers
about 55.6% of the total watershed, cropland covers
approximately 22.3%, forest consists of approximately
17% of the watershed area in higher elevations, and urban
areas consist of 4.2%. The urban land and crop agriculture
is located in the lower, flat elevations in the watershed,
while the grazing occurs in mid to high elevations, along
with some in the flat valleys in the watershed (Fig. 1b).
About 34% of the land in the Portneuf watershed is con-
tained within protected areas, with the majority being in
public protected areas (13% managed by the Bureau of
Land Management (BLM) and 21% by the U.S. Forest
Service (USFS) (Fig. 1b). Private lands (65% of the study
area) are destinated to agricultural lands, farming activities,
farm-related businesses, and agricultural uses in the com-
munity (Fig. 1b).
The Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust is the local land trust
whose service area includes the Portneuf Valley (Fig. 1b).
Currently 0.69% of the Portneuf River watershed is pro-
tected through conservation easements, and the Sagebrush
Steppe Land Trust is currently prioritizing the creation of
new conservation easements in the valley. This corre-
sponds with the two conservation easements that are in the
study area that cover approximately 600 hectares.
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2020
Quantifying and mapping provision of conservation
Our methodological approach is based on the correspon-
dence between conservation targets and ES. Thus, the
Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust conservation targets were
translated into ES (Table 1). The five conservation targets
maps were created on a 30 930 m grid (Appendix S1).
Due to the fact that the average conservation easement size
in the Portneuf watershed corresponds approximately to
, to preserve heterogeneity in the data while main-
taining a dataset that was manageable for computation, we
scaled up the resolution to a 1 91 km grid. Then, to
compare all conservation targets, we standardized them
using the raster calculator in ArcMap 10.5. We used min-
imum–maximum normalization to standardize the conser-
vation target on a 0 to 1 scale following Castro et al.
(2015). Because this normalization technique is sensitive to
outlier, minimum, and maximum values, the values within
the conservation target maps that occur outside the 5th or
95th percentile were assigned the 5th or 95th value,
respectively (Castro et al. 2015). Then, we combined and
normalized all conservation targets to represent areas with
the highest and lowest levels of all conservation targets’
provision in a single area. Finally, we compared conser-
vation target provision within the public protected areas,
private lands, and existing land trust conservation ease-
ments and explored differences using a non-parametric
Fig. 1 U.S. biomes map and location of Idaho state and the study area. Portneuf watershed in SE Idaho with elevation and social sampling
locations (a). Locations of Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust conservation easements, public protected areas (including Bureau of Land Management
and Forest Service lands), and private lands within the Portneuf watershed (b)
Table 1 Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust conservation target correspondence with ecosystem services, method of mapping, and social survey
wording. The land trust conservation target, ecosystem service, model or proxy for mapping, and way of wording the ecosystem service within
the social perception survey panel that provided ecosystem services, called ‘‘contributions from nature to people’’ for survey respondents
Land trust conservation target Ecosystem service Method of mapping Wording in social survey panel
Critical wildlife habitat Habitat quality InVEST habitat quality model ‘Habitat for species’
Water quality Water quality EnviroAtlas total stream impairment length ‘Water Quality’
Open space and scenic views Scenic quality InVEST scenic quality model Not included
Recognized historic and cultural value Cultural heritage Historic land-use trends weighted by survey data ‘Cultural heritage’
Recreational Access Recreation Density of trails ‘Recreation/ecotourism’
ÓThe Author(s) 2020 123
Mann–Whitney U test. All of the statistical analyses were
performed using R 3.3.1 (R Core Team).
Public awareness regarding conservation targets
Questionnaire design and social sampling strategy
In the summer of 2016, we conducted a social sampling
using face-to-face questionnaires in the Portneuf water-
shed. Overall, 471 valid surveys were completed (Table 2;
Appendix S2). Sampling occurred at 30 distinct locations
in the Portneuf Valley (Fig. 1a), with a focused effort on
populated and tourist areas within the study site. The
population sampled was a convenience sample (Quintas-
Soriano et al. 2018; Narducci et al. 2019). The question-
naires collected information regarding local perceptions
towards ES, perceived impact of land use/land cover on
local ES, and sociodemographic information (see Appen-
dix S2).
Social perceptions of conservation targets
Social perceptions of local respondents were explored to
evaluate public awareness of conservation targets. We
began with a free-listing technique in which respondents
were asked to name all of the possible benefits they could
think of that the ecosystems in the study area provide
(Quintas-Soriano et al. 2018). Those examples provided
were coded into ES following the international ES classi-
fication of CICES (; Haines-Young and
Postchin 2013). Ambiguous responses and those that could
not be categorized into any ES were excluded. Following
´pez et al. (2012), we developed initial categories
for each example of a benefit from the watershed. Then, we
grouped similar responses of a given category into groups
that corresponded to an established ES. We then estimated
the percentage of respondents in each location who listed
specific services. From this grouping, we estimated dif-
ference in public awareness for conservation targets using a
test in R 3.3.1 (R Core Team).
To assess conservation target vulnerability, we com-
pared the trend that survey respondents believed that con-
servation targets underwent in the last 10 years (Quintas-
Soriano et al. 2014,2016; Castro et al. 2016). The con-
servation targets on the ES panel included cultural heritage,
habitat quality, recreation, and water quality (Appendix
S3). Scenic quality was not included in our ES panel, so
our analysis of vulnerability could not include this goal. All
survey respondents were asked to indicate the perceived
trend (i.e., decreasing, stable, or increasing) of ES over the
past 10 years. We then estimated the percentage of
respondents who listed vulnerability types for specific
services and we analyzed the differences in service vul-
nerability perceptions between the four conservation tar-
gets using a v
test in R 3.3.1 (R Core Team).
Characterizing and mapping alternative private
areas for conservation
All conservation target maps were standardized from 0 to 1
and established with a resolution of 5 95 km grids to be
applicable for land trust management (Appendix S1). Then
we created maps of the residuals from the average con-
servation target provision in the watershed (Quintas-Sori-
ano et al. 2019). These residuals represent ‘‘hot’’ (higher
Table 2 Sociodemographic characterization of the Portneuf River
Watershed social sample
Categories % of respondents
Female 45
Male 55
\25 years 23
25–39 years 32
40–54 years 19
[55 years 25
\$19 999 14
$20 000–$39 999 14
$40 000–$59 999 15
$60 000–$79 999 10
[$80 000 19
Educational level
Less than high school 2
High school degree 14
University/college 82
Sense of place
City/county 6
Southeastern Idaho 30
Idaho 23
Western USA 21
Ethnic background
White 70
Black, African-American 8
Native-American 3
Asian American 2
Latino or Hispanic 10
Multi-racial 1
Other 4
Membership in an environmental association
Yes 9
No 91
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2020
provision) and ‘‘cold’’ (lower provision) spots of 5 95km
areas (Queiroz et al. 2015).
Conservation target bundles are here defined as portions
of private lands where multiple conservation targets are
simultaneously provided. Since the land trust only works
with private landowners to create conservation easements,
we limited our analysis of private conservation areas to
private lands in the Portneuf watershed (Fig. 1b). We used
cluster analysis to identify 5 95 km areas in private land
with similar provision levels of conservation targets
(Quintas-Soriano et al. 2019). K-means clustering was used
to identify five distinct conservation target bundles in the
Portneuf watershed. The selection of the number of clusters
was based on cluster robustness and knowledge of the area
(Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010; Queiroz et al. 2015). We
used flower diagrams to visualize conservation target
bundles. These bundles were calculated from the normal-
ized values of each conservation target map, and the size of
the flower petals represents conservation target provision.
Each conservation target bundle represents a different
opportunity for future private conservation areas because
they provide the goals of the land trust in different quan-
tities. In addition, interactions among conservation targets
were analyzed using a principal component analysis (PCA)
(Queiroz et al. 2015). PCA identified the main explanatory
factors of the variability and distribution of the conserva-
tion targets across the watershed. We used QGIS 2.12.1 to
map the spatial distribution of conservation targets and R to
conduct all spatial analysis and produce all the figures (R
Core Team 2018).
Conservation target provision in the Portneuf River
The spatial distribution of the conservation target provision
varied throughout the Portneuf watershed (Fig. 2; Appen-
dix S1). Cultural heritage was highest in the southern and
eastern parts of the watershed. The lowest provision of
cultural heritage occurred in the central and northwestern
regions of the watershed corresponding with areas with
influence from urban and exurban land uses, as well as in
higher elevation regions in the watershed (Fig. 2a). High
values of cultural heritage were mostly concentrated in
agricultural and rangeland areas, which are dominated by
agricultural production, grazing, and sagebrush-steppe
vegetation. Values of cultural heritage tend to occur in
mostly flat areas of lower elevation, as this conservation
target is tied closely with the crop and cattle agriculture
that occurs in these areas.
Highest values of habitat quality were found in public
lands dominated by natural forests and rangeland (Fig. 2b).
These areas are in higher elevation, most often located in
the public lands of the watershed. Vegetation is marked by
sagebrush-steppe species and conifer forests. The major
areas of low habitat quality included the urban center of
Pocatello in the northwestern corner of the watershed, the
southern agricultural valley, and the eastern agricultural
valley in the Portneuf watershed. Low habitat quality
occurred in town and urban centers as well as in agricul-
tural lands. Therefore, lower elevation and flatter slopes
tended to have lower habitat quality in the Portneuf
watershed because this is where agricultural and urban
areas occur.
Trail density was mainly present in areas dominated by
sagebrush-steppe vegetation and conifer forests. The
southern part of the watershed tended to have lower trail
density, which is influenced by fewer large population
towns in this region than in the northern part of the
watershed (Figs. 1a, 2c).
Scenic quality was largely impacted by natural vegeta-
tion and altitude, including sagebrush-steppe species,
deciduous forests, and conifer forests. Locations in the
watershed that had views of these natural flora and the
mountains were marked by higher scenic quality, such as
the central ridgeline across the Portneuf watershed and the
higher elevations on the boundary of the watershed
(Figs. 1b, 2d). On the other hand, areas of higher elevation
that surround heavy industrial and agricultural land uses
had lowest scenic quality, which is best demonstrated
through the low scenic quality on the hills surrounding the
industrial railroad and phosphate mine in the northwestern-
most corner of the Portneuf watershed. Lower elevation
areas (less than 1600 m) that cannot view the heavy
anthropogenic land uses had medium levels of scenic
quality because the view of a positive or negative impact
on view influences the InVEST scenic quality model, as
demonstrated by central region of the watershed (Figs. 1a,
The distribution of water quality varied significantly in
the watershed (Fig. 2e). Highest values of water quality
were found in the northeastern third of the watershed where
the upper portion of the Portneuf River is located. Fur-
thermore, areas in the northeastern part of the watershed,
marked by higher elevation and sloping above the Portneuf
River, had high water quality. Conversely, regions domi-
nated by agricultural and urban land use, especially those
in the lower portion of the Portneuf River, tended to have
lower water quality (Fig. 2e). As more of the water from
the river is diverted for agricultural and urban uses, the
water quality decreased (Fig. 1a). These regions included
the urban center of Pocatello in the northwestern corner,
ÓThe Author(s) 2020 123
the southern agricultural valley, and the eastern agricultural
valley in the Portneuf watershed. These regions are of
lower elevation (less than 1700 m) and are flatter, which
supports urban and agricultural land uses and allowed more
impairments to reach the water bodies in the region
(Figs. 1a, 2e). These impairments thus reduced water
quality because the relative amount of impaired stream
length increases in these lower quality regions.
The resulting map of all conservation targets showed
highest conservation target provision in the northeastern
portion of the watershed (Fig. 2f). The mid-level elevation
locations in and near public lands also had some of the
highest levels of all conservation target provision in the
Portneuf watershed. Urban and exurban areas had the
lowest levels of all conservation target provision (0.0–0.3;
Fig. 2f). The medium levels of all conservation target
provision (0.31–0.6) occurred in the agriculturally domi-
nated, flat valleys of the watershed (Figs. 1a, 2).
Public lands provided, on average, higher levels of
habitat quality, trail density, scenic quality, and water
quality than private lands (Fig. 3a). On the other hand,
private areas provided higher levels of cultural heritage
(0.73 ±0.006). Land trust conservation easements pro-
vided similar levels of conservation targets as the private
areas in the Portneuf watershed (Mann–Whitney Utest,
p[0.05, Fig. 3b).
Public awareness and perceived vulnerability
of conservation targets
We found significant differences between the public
awareness towards conservation targets (i.e., ES) in the
watershed (v
test, p[0.05, Fig. 4). Respondents recog-
nized as most important services freshwater provision,
followed by recreation, food from agriculture, fishing, and
existence values (Fig. 4). The most mentioned free-listed
services corresponded with four out of the five conserva-
tion targets. Recreation and scenic quality were the most
visible conservation targets, while water and habitat quality
Fig. 2 Conservation target standardized provision in the Portneuf River watershed and map of the combination of the five conservation targets.
Light blue indicates minimum provision while dark blue indicates maximum provision of each conservation goal
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2020
have a lower visibility to respondents. Finally, cultural
heritage had low public awareness, with only two respon-
dents identifying cultural heritage as an unprompted benefit
from the Portneuf watershed.
We found differences in perceived vulnerability among
the four conservation targets (v
test, p\0.001, Fig. 5).
Water quality and habitat for species were most perceived
by the public as being in decline over the past 10 years.
Recreation was perceived as increasing in the Portneuf
watershed during the past 10 years. Finally, cultural her-
itage was perceived as being mostly stable, with some
perceptions of decline, over the past 10 years.
Identification of alternative private conservation
areas through hot and cold spots and bundles
of conservation targets
Within private land, the hot spots of conservation targets
occurred around the borders of public lands and in the
northern half of the watershed (Fig. 6a). The cold spots of
conservation targets occurred around the urban center of
the City of Pocatello in the northwest corner of the
watershed and in the agricultural centers in the east and
south of the watershed. Hot spots are areas with particu-
larly high provision of land trust conservation targets,
Fig. 3 Public land versus private land level of provision of conservation target (a) and land trust conservation easements versus private land
provision of conservation targets (b). Bars represent the average provision of that conservation goal for each area, while bars indicate the
standard error of the mean. Statistical significant differences (p\0.001) as determined by Mann–Whitney Utest between level of provision is
denoted by an asterisk (*)
Fig. 4 Perceived awareness of local ecosystem services. The public awareness of land trust conservation targets is indicated by a blue arrow
ÓThe Author(s) 2020 123
while cold spots are areas where the provision of land trust
targets are particularly low.
The PCA analysis identified two gradients that
explained the variations of conservation targets across the
study area (Appendix S4). The first PCA component
explained 31% of the variance and corresponds to a gra-
dient of human impact and elevation. The second PCA
component, 23% of the variance, corresponds to a gradient
of population density. Cluster analysis defined five groups
of bundles of conservation targets within the private land of
the Portneuf watershed (Fig. 6b). The orange bundle
grouped high level of supply of scenic quality, habitat
quality, and cultural heritage. These areas occurred
between areas dominated by agricultural production and
the public lands in the Portneuf watershed and provided
lower levels of water quality and greatly reduced levels of
trail density. The yellow bundle corresponded with highest
levels of scenic quality, habitat quality, and water quality.
These areas occurred in agriculture-dominated areas on the
border of public protected areas and provided some cultural
heritage with greatly reduced levels of trail density. In the
green bundle, all conservation targets were provided in
high levels. This bundle occurred in areas with higher
elevation on the boundaries of public protected areas in the
Fig. 5 Perceived vulnerability by locals regarding land trust conservation targets
Fig. 6 Hot and cold spots and bundle analysis for conservation targets across the study area. aHot spots (represented by an increasing gradient
of red) are areas with particularly high provision of land trust conservation targets, while cold spots (represented by a decreasing gradient of blue)
are areas where the provision of land trust conservation targets is particularly low. bBundles of conservation targets identified by k-means
clustering for private land in the study area. The five groups of bundles (on the right side of the figure) are represented by rose-wind diagrams.
The color of the box around each rose-wind diagram corresponds with the area of the map that is the same color. The flower diagrams are
dimensionless, as they are based on normalized data for each service, and a higher surface area of a petal indicates the higher provision of a
particular conservation target
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2020
Portneuf watershed. The pink bundle presented high levels
of scenic quality, water quality, and cultural heritage. This
bundle occurred in areas dominated by agricultural pro-
duction, which had the lowest levels of habitat quality and
trail density. Finally, the blue bundle corresponded with
highest provision of habitat quality and occurred along the
lower elevation boundaries of public lands. These locations
did provide some capacity to preserve water quality and
cultural heritage, with low levels of scenic quality and
greatly reduced levels of trail density.
This study implements a methodological approach to
assess conservation easements in order to better understand
the role of private land conservation strategies in the
Western U.S. While the assessment of the role of protected
areas to maintain well-being is commonly studied (Palomo
et al. 2013,2014), the role of conservation easements
remains less investigated (Villamagna et al. 2013,2015).
Our interdisciplinary method showed that the conservation
targets of the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust are differently
distributed throughout the Portneuf watershed. The five
conservation goals showed different supply distribution
across the study area, although in specific regions of the
study area we found high patters of supply that allowed us
to identify future areas for conservation. Additionally, the
analysis of social importance shows that the public rec-
ognizes as important four of the five conservation targets,
which socially support the implementation of futures con-
servation easements. Finally, the bundle analysis identified
alternative areas (see Fig. 6b, green bundle) where all
conservation targets are preserved, which might guide
conservation efforts towards future private conservation
areas (Villamanga et al. 2013).
Because conservation easements are the fastest growing
private land conservation strategy in the U.S., our findings
have important policy implications to make operative the
ES approach in private conservation initiatives (Dayer
et al. 2016). Currently, over 19 million hectares of land is
under easement in the U.S. and millions of dollars annually
are invested in new easements (Peters et al. 2017; Quinn
and Wood 2017). However, mechanisms to assess conser-
vation easements are not well established. Our study
demonstrates that the application of ES can provide
insights for the interdisciplinary assessment land trust
conservation. Since land management policy in the U.S. is
strongly influenced by the opinion, preferences and
demands of the public, incorporating the opinion of local
residents result essential to promote a more cost-effective
and public-supported organization (Villamagna et al.
2013,2017; Palomo et al. 2014). Additionally, by
identifying spatially explicit bundles where multiple con-
servation targets occur, the land trust can target specific
parcels and private landowners where to prioritize con-
servation efforts. We suggest incorporating spatial priori-
tization information such as what we produced to the
network of landowners as a strategy to promote the goals
and mission of the land trust in the region (Villamagna
et al. 2015).
The private conservation areas identified in our analysis
should be interpreted within the context of the limitations
of our methodological approach. First, our approach differs
from more traditional, smaller-scale ecological studies in
that our study is a landscape scale, interdisciplinary
assessment of different conservation targets (i.e., ES), in
which we compare the potential capacity of different land
units to preserve conservation targets. We assumed lin-
earity between land trust conservation targets and the
model and proxies used to quantify the Portneuf land-
scapes’ capacity to deliver them, which is common in the
assessment of ES (Castro et al. 2013; Quintas-Soriano et al.
2014). For instance, we used trail density as a proxy to
evaluate recreation. This estimation could be more accurate
if we had more detailed information on the annual number
of visitors recreating on Portneuf trails, which would allow
us to accurately estimate the environmental pressure that
recreation places on public and private lands. Egoh et al.
(2012) reviewed this issue and stated that while provi-
sioning services can be directly quantified, most cultural
services are less straightforward, and researchers must rely
on indicators or proxy data for their quantification. Our
study advances this topic by using two new proxies for
mapping recreation and cultural heritage, two of the ser-
vices considered more difficult to quantify (Plieninger et al.
2013). Second, assessing the public awareness of conser-
vation targets through spatially explicit exercises is chal-
lenging (Brown and Kytta 2014). While our study does not
map social perceptions regarding conservation targets, our
social assessment is spatially explored across particular
landscapes (Fig. 1a), which may inform the Sagebrush
Steppe Land Trust on the degree of acceptance that local
communities may have for specific conservation targets.
Third, the spatial scale used in the bundle analysis of
conservation targets continues to be a subject of debate
(Spake et al. 2017) because there can be a loss of accuracy
as a result of the normalization and standardization of ES
maps (Quintas-Soriano et al. 2019). Most ES bundle
studies have used the municipality level, with the justifi-
cation being that it is the smallest administrative scale that
decisions are made (see for example Raudsepp-Hearne
et al. 2010; Renard et al. 2015), and thus this scale enables
connection with land managers and decision makers
(Queiroz et al. 2015). In addition, while a larger scale
might facilitate the visualization of the ES bundles, there
ÓThe Author(s) 2020 123
would be limitations associated with the quality of data
(Carpenter et al. 2009; Martı
´pez et al. 2012; Castro
et al. 2014). In our study, we developed a grid bundle
analysis to improve the spatial resolution and provide
results at a spatial resolution that is relevant for decision-
making for the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust. Deciding the
appropriate resolution in ES bundle analysis is a key step in
deriving accessible results that will inform land trust land
management strategies. Therefore, the bundle resolution
must be agreed upon by scientists and decision makers in
order to ensure its application. In our study, the selection of
a595 km size grid for the bundle analysis was based on
two premises: (1) our ability to preserve heterogeneity in
the original data while maintaining a dataset that is man-
ageable for computation; and (2) identify areas that have a
higher likelihood of containing lands with more than one
landowner in the grid cell, which increases the number of
potential landowners per grid.
Conservation initiatives on privately owned land can
help to mitigate the loss of global biodiversity and engage
new actors to conservation (Kamal et al. 2015; Gooden and
Sas-Rolfes 2020). There are many motives for conserva-
tionists to support the increased attention to private land
(Gooden 2019; Gooden and Sas-Rolfes 2020). On one
hand, private lands fulfill many of the same functions as
public protected areas, including ecosystem services (such
as climate regulation, freshwater supply, water regulation
or air quality) and social ones (such as recreation, spiritual
and cultural heritage) (Langholz and Lassoie 2001). On the
other side, private lands also can provide important eco-
logical functions as corridors and buffer zones for larger
protected areas (Willis et al. 2012). In addition, the intro-
duction of new social actors into conservation may increase
potential for innovation and entrepreneurship and this can
lead to better, more viable, and collaborative decisions
(Kerr and Tindale 2004; Moon et al. 2014; Gooden and
Sas-Rolfes 2020), while simultaneously the proximity to
conservation easements can increase nearby property eco-
nomic values (Reeves et al. 2018). However, private con-
servation initiatives may also be controversial, as can be
argued that it is a form of privatization of protected areas or
commodification of nature conservation. Several uncer-
tainties are derived from the private nature of these private
lands. For instance, private land conservation is driven by a
variety of influences, such as the voluntary action under-
taken by landowners, which is influenced not only by
external factors such as financial incentives, but also by
personal and psychological factors (Gooden 2019). Top-
down approaches to biodiversity conservation on private
land have had negative repercussions, with landowners
expressing their unwillingness to participate in conserva-
tion strategies that provide no benefits for them (Grodzin-
ska-Jurczak and Cent 2011; Kamal et al. 2015). On the
other side, most private lands are informally protected
(Langholz and Lassoie 2001) and this can promote several
future uncertainties regarding the future continuation in a
long term. Integrating private land into conservation
planning and management is complicated by the nature of
landownership and the complex social and economic traits
that are interrelated with its current use (Mascia 2003;
Raymond and Brown 2011; Kamal et al. 2015).
Our approach can be used to implement transdisci-
plinary processes where the scientific, public, and policy-
making communities work together with the goal of
developing private conservation strategies (Lo
guez et al. 2017). Although our results refer to a specific
case study in the Western U.S., the approach proposed can
be easily translated to other areas in the world, because
private lands are proliferating both in the developing world
and in industrialized countries. In Africa, for example, a
long history of game ranches has provided important areas
for creating private reserves (Langholz and Lassoie 2001).
In other regions in Latin America, private lands are also
expanding, such as in Colombia or Brazil, because it rep-
resents an alternative to the government’s insufficient
management. In addition, recently different governments
are establishing private land conservation mechanisms for
motivating its implementation (Gooden and Sas-Rolfes
2020). For example, the Chilean government has passed
legislation to permit the derecho real, a newly codified
conservation property right (ILCN 2016; Gooden and Sas-
Rolfes 2020). In Catalonia (Spain), a land stewardship
network called Xarxa de Custodia del Territori has made
progress to secure legislation enabling land stewardship
agreements and tax incentives (Brandehof 2018). All these
strategies related to nature conservation on private land are
being explored globally from legal prescriptions to finan-
cial incentives and participatory site selection approaches
(Kamal et al. 2015). The raising of private land around the
world imply needs for the implementation of interdisci-
plinary approaches that allow to secure the protection of
ecological, social, and cultural values of land. Specifically,
by increasing the collaboration between NGOs, such as
land trust organizations, and interdisciplinary scientists,
similar research on public areas can help to answer
important management questions while developing applied
solutions for conservation (Knight et al. 2008; Bennett
et al. 2017). While this study provides a case study
example on how to apply interdisciplinary research meth-
ods to land trust conservation easement efforts, future
studies should closely collaborate with conservation orga-
nizations throughout the entire research process in order to
achieve the best results for conservation management and
decision (Graves et al. 2019).
123 ÓThe Author(s) 2020
Conservation easements implemented by land trusts are
the fastest growing mechanism for private land conser-
vation in the U.S. The proposed methodological approach
to identify future lands for conservation can increase the
success of conservation efforts because it not only
implements a biophysical assessment of conservation
goals, but also incorporates multiple views, visions, and
perceptions of local private landowners. We call the
urgent need for collaboration between scientists, land
trusts or other conservation organizations, local commu-
nities, and managers to evaluate and monitor the current
and future state of private conservation areas. This
transdisciplinary collaboration will lead to a more effec-
tive implementation of applied research into on-the-
ground management and might facilitate the involvement
of key stakeholders in conservation, which might con-
tribute to increase the success of growing private con-
servation strategies. Acknowledging the future
conservation of private land with high ecological value
will require a landowner acceptance of conservation
goals; thus it poses the need of establishing new incen-
tives and methodologies to make visible benefits from
conservation and making it more attractive, acceptable,
and plausible framed in ‘win–win’ scenarios. Future
research demands new efforts for promoting transdisci-
plinary scientific approaches focused on strengthening
collaboration among the scientific, public, and policy-
making communities when developing and implementing
new private conservation strategies.
Acknowledgements Open Access funding provided by Projekt
DEAL. This project was made possible by the NSF Idaho EPSCoR
Program and by the National Science Foundation under award
number IIA-1301792. We would like to thank the Sagebrush Steppe
Land Trust for their partnership on this research, and the MILES
(Managing Idaho’s Landscapes for Ecosystem Services) project for
resources and collaboration. We certify that the Institutional Review
Board (IRB) for the Protection of Human Participants at Idaho State
University has approved the IRB protocol with permit number IRB-
FY2016-371. The research reported in this paper contributes to the
Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (www.pecs-science.
Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons
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Publisher’s Note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to
jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Cristina Quintas-Soriano (&) is a Postdoctoral Researcher at
University of Kassel, Germany. Her research interests include land-
scape ecology, ecosystem service science, and social-ecological sus-
Address: Social-Ecological Interactions in Agricultural Systems,
Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, University of Kassel, 37213
Witzenhausen, Germany.
Address: Social-Ecological Research Lab, Department of Biological
Sciences, Idaho State University, 921 South 8th Avenue, Pocatello,
ID 83209, USA.
Address: Departamento de Biologı
´a Vegetal y Ecologı
´a, Centro
Andaluz para la Evaluacio
´n y Seguimiento de Cambio Global
(CASCG), Universidad de Almerı
´a, La Can
˜ada de San Urbano, 04120
´a, Spain.
Dainee M. Gibson is a master student at Idaho State University,
USA. Her research interests include landscape ecology, conservation
science, and biodiversity conservation.
Address: Social-Ecological Research Lab, Department of Biological
Sciences, Idaho State University, 921 South 8th Avenue, Pocatello,
ID 83209, USA.
Jodi S. Brandt is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University,
USA. She is the leader of the Land Use Lab. Her research interests
include land-use science, landscape change and its drivers, and the
impacts of landscape change on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Address: Human–Environment Systems Center, Boise State Univer-
sity, Boise, ID 83725, USA.
´guez is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain. Her research interests include
science-policy interface, conservation science, and social-ecological
Address: Departamento de Biologı
´a Vegetal y Ecologı
´a, Centro
Andaluz para la Evaluacio
´n y Seguimiento de Cambio Global
(CASCG), Universidad de Almerı
´a, La Can
˜ada de San Urbano, 04120
´a, Spain.
Address: Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3)-Universitat Oberta
de Catalunya (UOC), Av. Friedrich Gauss 5, 08860 Castelldefels,
Barcelona, Spain.
Javier Cabello is a Full Professor at University of Almeria, Spain.
His research interests include Environmental Science, Ecology, and
Address: Departamento de Biologı
´a Vegetal y Ecologı
´a, Centro
Andaluz para la Evaluacio
´n y Seguimiento de Cambio Global
(CASCG), Universidad de Almerı
´a, La Can
˜ada de San Urbano, 04120
´a, Spain.
Pedro A. Aguilera is a Full Professor at University of Almeria,
Spain. His research interests include conservation science, ecosystem
service, and network analysis.
Address: Informatics and Environmental Research Group, Depart-
ment of Biology and Geology, University of Almerı
´a, Almerı
´a, Spain.
Antonio J. Castro is an Associate Professor at University of Almeria
(Spain) and Affiliated Faculty at Idaho State University (USA). His
research interests include ecosystem service science, social-ecological
systems, and place-based research.
Address: Social-Ecological Research Lab, Department of Biological
Sciences, Idaho State University, 921 South 8th Avenue, Pocatello,
ID 83209, USA.
Address: Departamento de Biologı
´a Vegetal y Ecologı
´a, Centro
Andaluz para la Evaluacio
´n y Seguimiento de Cambio Global
(CASCG), Universidad de Almerı
´a, La Can
˜ada de San Urbano, 04120
´a, Spain.
ÓThe Author(s) 2020 123
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... Scholars (Carolan 2018;Rotz, Fraser, and Martin 2019), government (Bigelow, Borchers, Hubbs 2016), industry (Maixner and Wyant 2019), and conservation organizations (Chang 2016) portend that a high proportion of agricultural lands will change hands during the next three decades, perhaps up to 371 million acres or 40 percent of all agricultural lands (American Farmland Trust 2020). The high volume of anticipated land transfers invokes uncertainty about the future of food production and the environmental benefits provided by agricultural lands, like open space, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity (Quintas-Soriano et al. 2020;Richardson 2018). ...
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As the average age of agricultural producers continues to rise, farm succession planning and the large number of anticipated land transfers are expected to transform rural American agricultural production and landscapes. Policy tools like conservation easements (CEs) can facilitate agricultural land preservation through "dead hand control" by restricting the development through binding legal contracts that can be transferred across generations. We examine whether agricultural landowners seek CE agreements to keep the land in agriculture for intergenerational bequest, rather than selling the land for financial gains that could be enjoyed immediately or passed to heirs. We assess whether this may be influenced by landowner conservation ethic or perceived threat to sense of place. We analyze the survey data collected from 2,270 agricultural landowners in Colorado and Wyoming utilizing a random utility model estimation. We find that landowners are less likely to reject a CE agreement when there is a desire to bequest agricultural land to the next generation or a perceived threat to sense of place; however, conservation ethic mitigates intergenerational bequest effects. This indicates that conservation ethic encompasses a desire to pass land to the next generation. Our findings contribute to the conservation literature by advocating for the regenerative approach to land conservation rather than the theory of planned behavior.
... The participatory process allowed identifying key stakeholders for defining priority areas for conservation. We consider that designing and implementing supplementary environmental protection policies based on private initiatives is a fundamental alliance (Quintas-Soriano et al. 2020). It is a realistic strategy at The integration of stakeholders' knowledge involved in the process facilitated the definition of TIUs, allowed overcoming conflicts derived from the use of LUP's political-administrative units -which generally do not respond to the ecosystem characteristics-as well as an in-depth knowledge of the territory's complexity. ...
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Land Use Planning (LUP) is a central tool of public policy for promoting Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in social-ecological systems of drylands, considering the strong dependence between local communities and their natural resources. This work highlights the collective process carried out for achieving the Diagnosis of the physical-biological subsystem and for formulating conservation and SLM strategies in La Paz department, Argentina, within the framework of the LUP Municipal Plan (LUPMP). To do so, a methodology that combines participatory techniques, like collective mapping, with use of geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. The collective construction of knowledge, through interaction among the scientific, governmental and local communities, allowed to define and validate eight Territorial Integration Units, priority sites for conservation of the natural and cultural heritage, SLM practices and LUP programs. The resulting Diagnosis constitutes a key information input for making decisions aimed at sustainability, replicable in other drylands.
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Funding and financing challenges remain a persistent barrier to implementing nature‐based solutions that enhance ecosystem services, facilitate adaptation to climate change, and combat environmental stressors in cities. In the absence of adequate public financial resources, private funds are often expected to fill the gap. But market‐driven, nature‐based solutions can contribute to an inequitable distribution of urban ecosystem services by focusing on net benefits provided by nature. To help foster sustainable development and ensure that nature‐based solutions reach diverse and historically marginalized populations and communities, this scoping review explores the ecosystem services provided by nature‐based solutions and the payment mechanisms that produce and maintain them, focusing on literature on the United States. Findings suggest that the net benefits provided by nature‐based solutions and the available payment mechanisms vary based on the solution utilized (e.g., urban trees, parks, community gardens). Further, the distribution of benefits from nature‐based solutions is influenced by local historical, cultural, political, economic, and environmental contexts, the voices included in decision‐making, and the payment mechanisms used. Inspired by social equity principles, we present a framework for ecosystem service provision that is sensitive to market‐driven funding, financing, and partnerships. Practitioners can use this framework to assess whether payment schemes work in tandem with place (the local context) and process (governance and planning approaches) to ameliorate or exacerbate disparities in nature‐based solutions and the benefits they provide to people.
The Three-River Headwaters Region (TRHR) is an ecological security shelter for southeastern China and East Asia. It is necessary to develop scientific land-use management strategies in the Three-River Headwaters Region to achieve the goal of sustainable land development. This study selected six vital ecosystem services (ESs) for the study area namely, water supply, carbon sequestration, soil retention, sand fixation, hydrological regulation, and flood mitigation to quantify and map the spatiotemporal distributions of these ecosystem services during 2000–2018. We also mapped the spatial distribution of biodiversity protection importance in the Three-River Headwaters Region using the MaxEnt model. We further identified the priority conservation areas through the combination of biodiversity and six ecosystem services with different area thresholds and compared the conservation efficiencies in the Sanjiangyuan National Park and the current protected areas in the Three-River Headwaters Region. In addition, we evaluated the relationships between ecosystem services and biodiversity protection importance and the impacts of eleven environmental factors (i.e., normalized difference vegetation index, elevation, slope, temperature, precipitation; wind speed, solar radiation, the proportion of forest land, the proportion of grassland, the proportion of cropland, and the proportion of wetland) on them. Finally, we identified the functional zones based on the ecosystem services-biodiversity bundles and proposed the corresponding management schemes. The results showed that the spatial distributions of six ecosystem services and biodiversity protection importance in the Three-River Headwaters Region were not spatially congruent. With the changes in the area thresholds in extracting priority conservation areas, the protection focus in the Sanjiangyuan National Park and the current protected areas should be updated accordingly. We identified eight ecosystem services-biodiversity bundles in the Three-River Headwaters Region and divided them into five ecological functional zones, based on which then the corresponding zoning optimization management schemes in each bundle and function zone were proposed. Comprehensive consideration of ecosystem services and biodiversity protection importance is insightful for other regions to conserve biodiversity and exploit natural resources simultaneously.
The drivers of individual landowners’ adoption of conservation easements have been well-studied. However, the role and relative predictive power of drivers at the community, rather than individual, scale have not. This study employs diffusion of innovations theory to examine easement adoption in Virginia at the community scale, using geospatial analysis as well as surveys and interviews with easement practitioners. Geospatial modeling results suggest that community-level easement likelihood can be predicted well, but community-level predictors differ from typical individual-level predictors. The literature suggests that easement adopters are typically wealthier, more educated, and less land-dependent. The communities containing easements in our study were generally less wealthy, less educated, and more economically dependent on the land. Data collected from practitioners highlighted the importance of community-scale forces in predicting patterns of easement adoption, including community cohesion, aspects of local land-use planning, and the influence of change agents and opinion leaders.
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The degree of coupling between the social and ecological components of social-ecological systems is seen as fundamental to understanding their functioning, interactions and trajectories. Yet, there is limited work about how to empirically understand the degree of coupling between social and ecological systems, nor the processes by which the degree of coupling could change over time. Here, we introduce a conceptual framework for characterizing trajectories over time of coupling and de-coupling in social-ecological river systems. We analyze two conceptual scenarios describing coupling and de-coupling trajectories in a social-ecological system and define a series of key concepts for understanding social-ecological system trajectories. We tested these coupling and de-coupling trajectories theory by linking these concepts to empirical case examples of two river social-ecological systems in the western United States. Finally, we propose a quantitative approach with the potential for evaluating the level of social-ecological coupling and de-coupling trajectories in other SES contexts. This paper represents an advancing on the identification of specific actions that explain current SES trajectories and immediate actions to reinforce or shift the trajectory.
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This study implements the ecosystem service framework to link the concepts of farming activity and ecosystem restoration within the circular economy. It proposes a method for identifying social indicators of ecosystem restoration that can be taken into account in the transition towards more circular and sustainable agricultural systems. Using a case study located in semi-arid Mediterranean landscapes, we conducted a social sampling with 350 respondents to explore how an almond tree restoration changes perceptions and preferences for ecosystem services, and how these socio-ecological changes translate into indicators of natural capital and human wellbeing. Results not only indicated that the almond tree restoration induced changes in people´s preferences and perceptions for ecosystem services, such as an increase in ecosystem service diversity (i.e., local identity and erosion control), but they also demonstrated how the social and cultural benefits associated to ecosystem services can be used as indicators of human well-being (i.e., human health and access to goods). We suggest that the inclusion of social indicators of ecosystem restoration must be included in policies and initiatives for a transition to circular economy, and to achieve the challenges of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
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In recent years, private land conservation has increased in profile among policymakers and academics. Conservation initiatives on privately owned land help to mitigate global biodiversity loss and introduce new actors to conservation. However, they have also been the subject of numerous critical accounts. This review catalogs issues that emerge in critical literature, identifying 25 themes, classified into three groups: Implementation Effectiveness, Value Conflict, and Economic Inefficiency. Gaps in the literature include the need for broader geographic coverage; assessment of the issues' specificity to private land conservation; and evaluation of the extent to which issues in the literature reflect broader societal values. The literature's strong emphasis on value conflict suggests that greater attention to governance effectiveness may steer private land conservation toward practices that are more just, equitable, and representative and lead to increased societal support. We recommend further research to address identified gaps, with a greater orientation toward inclusive governance.
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Private land conservation is driven by a variety of influences. As a voluntary action undertaken by landowners, it is influenced not only by external factors such as financial incentives, but also by personal and psychological factors. Using William James’s concept of the “extended self”, this study investigates how protected land becomes a part of landowners’ identity. The study is based on narrative interviews with 27 landowners who had purchased or created a privately conserved area in one of 13 countries. The analysis highlights three facets of these nature reserves that enable incorporation into a landowner’s sense of self: place, possession and project. Drawing on Breakwell’s identity theory, Belk’s analysis of possessions, and Little’s project analytic theory, findings illustrate the various functions land serves in the expression and development of identity. The present research draws attention to aspects of land as possession and land as project, which have received little attention in conservation research. This study points to new directions for inquiry into the relationship between land, nature, identity and self and to practical applications for program design, including implications for knowledge sharing, toolkits, networks and communication. La conservación de tierras privadas es impulsada por diversos factores influyentes. Además de causas externas como incentivos financieros, otros elementos de carácter personal y psicológico, también influyen en la toma de decisión voluntaria de los propietarios para conservar. Empleando el concepto de William James del extended self (el ser ampliado), este estudio busca entender cómo las tierras privadas protegidas se vuelven parte de la identidad del propietario. El estudio se basa en entrevistas narrativas/descriptivas con 27 propietarios quienes han comprado o creado áreas protegidas privadas en 13 países. El análisis resalta tres facetas de esas reservas naturales que destacan en hacerse parte del sentido de ser del propietario: lugar, posesión y proyecto. Basándose en la teoría de identidad de Breakwell, así como en el análisis de Belk sobre la posesión y la teoría analítica de proyecto de Little, los resultados de este estudio ilustran los diversos papeles que la tierra puede tener en la expresión y desarrollo de la identidad de la persona. El estudio destaca los aspectos de posesión y de proyecto, los cuales no han recibido mucha atención en investigaciones de conservación. El estudio introduce nuevas líneas de investigación sobre la relación entre la tierra, la naturaleza, la identidad y el ser, así como sobre la aplicación práctica de los resultados para el diseño de programas de intervención. Asimismo, tiene implicaciones sobre el intercambio de conocimiento, instrumentos, redes, y comunicación.
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Context Humans continually transform landscapes, affecting the ecosystem services (ES) they provide. Thus, the spatial relationships among services vary across landscapes. Managers and decision makers have access to a variety of tools for mapping landscapes and analyzing their capacity to provide multiple ES. Objectives This paper characterizes and maps ES bundles across transformed landscapes in southeast Spain incorporating both the ecological and social perspectives. Our specific goals were to: (1) quantify ES biophysical supply, (2) identify public awareness, (3) map ES bundles, and (4) characterize types of ES bundles based on their social-ecological dimensions. Methods Biophysical models and face-to-face social surveys were used to quantify and map ES bundles and explore the public awareness in a highly transformed Mediterranean region. Then, we classified ES bundles into four types using a matrix crossing the degree of biophysical ES supply and the degree of social awareness. Results Results mapped seven ES bundles types representing diverse social-ecological dynamics. ES bundles mapped at the municipality level showed mismatches between their biophysical provision and the public awareness, which has important implications for operationalizing the bundles concept for landscape planning and management. ES bundles characterization identified four types of bundles scenarios. Conclusions We propose an ES bundles classification that incorporates both their social and ecological dimensions. Our findings can be used by land managers to identify areas in which ES are declining as well as priority areas for maximizing ES provision and can help to identify conflicts associated with new management and planning practices.
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A projected 60% of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2030. Urbanization has major impacts on ecosystem services, and therefore human well-being, but not all groups within a community experience the impacts of urbanization on ecosystem services the same. It is important for decision-makers to understand the trade-offs that occur with urbanization, as it relates to ecosystem services provision, as well as the perceptions of importance of ecosystem services among a population. In this paper, we measured a) areas at environmental risk due to urban growth, b) differences in societal demand for ecosystem services between socio-demographic groups, c) perceptions of urban and agricultural impacts to ecosystem services, and d) public awareness of current ecosystem services trends, in the Boise, Idaho, metropolitan area, one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States. We applied urban growth projections to current land use-land cover, and found that agriculture is at highest risk of conversion. We then conducted over 400 face-to-face survey, measuring whether perceptions regarding ecosystem services from urban and agricultural land differ between socio-demographic groups. We found significant differences regarding perceived importance of ecosystem services. The general public placed higher importance on food production and alternative energy while experts placed higher importance on water quality and recreation. Overall, respondents perceived that urban land use negatively impacts more ecosystem services than agriculture land use. Urban areas were associated with positive impacts to local identity and recreation, while agriculture was positively associated with cultural heritage and food production. Both urban and agriculture land uses were negatively associated with water quality, air quality, and habitat for species with urban land having greater, negative impacts. Our results indicate a need to incorporate social demand for ecosystem services in urban planning, to ensure policy resilience and to appropriately address diverse perspectives .
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Facing the challenges of environmental and social changes, sustainable management of ecosystem services is a worldwide priority. The Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) approach provides a unique opportunity for promoting transdisciplinary place-based comparative research for social-ecological systems (SES) management. As part of the PECS-sponsored WaterSES project, we used four place-based SES research sites to analyze patterns in perceptions of ecosystem services. Our data come from about 1,500 face-to-face surveys conducted in southern Spain, the south-central Great Plains of Oklahoma (USA), and the Portneuf and Treasure Valleys, Idaho (USA). Specifically, this study aimed to (1) describe and compare perceptions of ecosystem services within and across SES sites, (2) explore how perceptions of ecosystem services vary among local respondents and by sociodemographic factors, and (3) evaluate the overall relationship between place-based SES contexts and ecosystem service perceptions. Our results revealed that cultural ecosystem services were the most highly mentioned among those surveyed across all four sites. However, we found differences in how ecosystem services were perceived among the four SES contexts. For instance, both, social (e.g., gender, education) and local ecological (e.g., land use and climate) characteristics play roles in influencing people's perceptions of which services are important. Overall, our findings suggest the relationship between people's perceptions of ecosystem services and their social-environmental context is complex, which highlights the value of the PECS approach for crafting more effective and inclusive landscape management strategies.
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The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) is widely used for mapping, ecosystem assessment, and natural capital ecosystem accounting. On the basis of the experience gained in using it since the first version was published in 2013, it has been updated for version 5.1. This policy brief summarises what has been done and how the classification can be used.
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Multiple ecosystem services (ES) can respond similarly to social and ecological factors to form bundles. Identifying key social-ecological variables and understanding how they co-vary to produce these consistent sets of ES may ultimately allow the prediction and modelling of ES bundles, and thus, help us understand critical synergies and trade-offs across landscapes. Such an understanding is essential for informing better management of multi-functional landscapes and minimising costly trade-offs. However, the relative importance of different social and biophysical drivers of ES bundles in different types of social-ecological systems remains unclear. As such, a bottom-up understanding of the determinants of ES bundles is a critical research gap in ES and sus- tainability science. Here, we evaluate the current methods used in ES bundle science and synthesize these into four steps that capture the plurality of methods used to examine predictors of ES bundles. We then apply these four steps to a cross-study comparison (North and South French Alps) of relationships between social-ecological variables and ES bundles, as it is widely advocated that cross-study comparisons are necessary for achieving a general un- derstanding of predictors of ES associations. We use the results of this case study to assess the strengths and limitations of current approaches for understanding distributions of ES bundles. We conclude that inconsistency of spatial scale remains the primary barrier for understanding and predicting ES bundles. We suggest a hy- pothesis-driven approach is required to predict relationships between ES, and we outline the research required for such an understanding to emerge.
This paper reviews the effects of conservation easements (CEs) on surrounding property values. From the literature, key variable characteristics of CEs that influence surrounding property value are development potential, proximity, and the effect of forest composition and characteristics. Overall, proximity to CEs was found to increase surrounding property values. The tax implications of CEs were also examined. The effect of municipal services, the effect of housing demand, and the potential for self-financing for additional CEs were discussed. CEs were largely found to increase tax revenue by increasing surrounding property values and have the potential for self-financing if designed properly.