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A cultural approach to wetlands restoration to assess its public acceptance

Josep Pueyo‐Ros, Anna Ribas, Rosa M. Fraguell
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.3 pp. 626-637
cultural values, decision making, ecological restoration, ecosystem services, ecosystems, landscapes, questionnaires, stakeholders, wetlands, Spain
Ecological restoration (ER) of coastal wetlands is extremely important because they provide a huge variety of ecosystem services (ES), but they are the most degraded ecosystems in the world. However, coastal wetlands are usually located in largely modified and densely populated landscapes. Hence their restoration may conflict with cultural values. Therefore, considering the cultural dimension of ER is a way of increasing public acceptance of restoration projects. In this study, we assessed the public acceptance of a restoration project in a coastal wetland of Costa Brava (Spain). We combined the ES framework with a cultural approach, which is capable of considering interdisciplinarity, introducing barely assessed services like tranquility and facilitating further integration of the human dimension in the ES framework. We administered an open‐ended questionnaire to 232 visitors and the answers were submitted to a content analysis to get a post hoc classification of services and values. Our results show that visitors undervalue environmental values, while tranquility is the most commonly stated value. Moreover, place attachment is found to be the main driver to influence the perception of the ER. The study concluded that the project enjoys a high public acceptance. However, some disengagement exists between the goals of restoration and visitors’ perceptions, and this needs to be addressed. Sharing the decision‐making power with stakeholders and informing visitors about ES that are not easily perceived could be appropriate steps to take.