Scientific and local ecological knowledge, shaping perceptions towards protected areas and related ecosystem services

M. A. Cebrián-Piqueras, A. Filyushkina, D. N. Johnson, V. B. Lo, M. D. López-Rodríguez, H. March, E. Oteros-Rozas, C. Peppler-Lisbach, C. Quintas-Soriano, C. M. Raymond, I. Ruiz-Mallén, C. J. van Riper, Y. Zinngrebe, T. Plieninger

Are scientific and local ecological knowledge systems distinctive enough? Can ecological knowledge explain resident perceptions about landscapes? Can this knowledge be predicted by resident characteristics such as behaviour, socio-demographics or the urban–rural gradient? Our results provide insight into answering these questions, in the context of municipalities within the Sierra de Guadarrama. Ecological knowledge systems were highly correlated and were instrumental in predicting local resident perceptions of water-related ecosystem services, landscape change, increasing outdoors activities, and human-nature relationships. Engagement with nature, socio-demographics, trip characteristics, and a rural-urban gradient explained a high degree of variation in resident ecological knowledge. Bundles of perceived ecosystem services and impacts, in relation to ecological knowledge, emerged as social representations on how residents relate to, understand, and perceive landscapes. Our findings provide insight into the interactions between ecological knowledge systems and their role in shaping perceptions of local communities about protected areas. These results are expected to inform protected area management and landscape sustainability.

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