Social preferences regarding the delivery of ecosystem services in a semiarid Mediterranean region

The valuation of ecosystem services has primarily been conducted within the context of the economic value of these services to society. Ecosystem services research has since advanced to identify conflicts of interest between different sectors of society while prioritizing conservation actions. This approach can be important in semiarid ecosystems, where biodiversity conservation can be hindered by a lack of community awareness. In the south-eastern Iberian Peninsula, conservation is perceived by society as a barrier to the economic development provided by agricultural or tourism activities. We use the contingent valuation method to identify community perception and economic values of different ecosystem services provided by semiarid ecosystems in the south-eastern Iberian Peninsula. This method identifies the perceptions of individuals benefiting from ecosystem services and examines their willingness to pay for the maintaining of these ecosystem services. Results showed that most respondents recognized the importance of services to human well-being and were willing to conserve these services. Preferences for maintaining water and air quality showed that respondents understood the relationship between the conservation of ecosystem services and local well-being. However, responses varied greatly across categories of beneficiaries; this finding highlights a potential conflict of interest that should be considered in any decision-making processes.

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