Environmental tastes, opinions and behaviors: social sciences in the service of cultural ecosystem service assessment
Ecology and Society
Cultural ecosystem services are the nonmaterial ways in which humans derive benefits from ecosystems. They are distinct from other types of ecosystem services in that they are not only intangible, but they require an entirely different set of research tools to identify, characterize, and value them. We offer a novel way to assess how individuals perceive and use their local ecosystem, thereby advancing the state-of-the-art of cultural ecosystem service assessment. We identify distinct
... tal "tastes" that represent general dispositions, preferences, or orientations regarding particular characteristics of the environment. We then use these environmental tastes to explain environmental behaviors (e.g., engagement in outdoor activities and resource conservation efforts) and opinions (e.g., perceived economic dependence on various environmental resources and opinions regarding environmentally focused development issues). We identify three distinct environmental tastes: "Landscape" is associated with the visual and sensory landscape; "Biota" is associated with living elements of the environment; and "Desert" is associated with the extreme climatic characteristics of the environment. We report that the "Biota" environmental taste has wide-ranging impact on subsequent measures of pro-environmental behaviors and opinions. We maintain that this taste dimension is important for the ability of researchers, land use managers, and policy-makers to understand and evaluate cultural ecosystem services and to characterize how humans perceive them and benefit from them.