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Probing into farmers’ perceptions of a globally endangered ecosystem service provider

García-Alfonso, Marina, Morales-Reyes, Zebensui, Gangoso, Laura, Bouten, Willem, Sánchez-Zapata, José A., Serrano, David, Donázar, José A.
Ambio 2019 v.48 no.8 pp. 900-912
Neophron percnopterus, anthropogenic activities, ecosystem services, endangered ecosystems, endangered species, farmers, farms, global positioning systems, herd size, human-wildlife relations, livestock husbandry, males, risk, surveys, vultures, Canary Islands
Society’s perception of ecosystem services is a key issue in conservation, particularly for endangered species providing services linked to human activities. Misperceptions may lead to wildlife–human conflicts with the risk of disappearance of the species involved. We contrasted farmers’ perceptions with highly accurate quantitative data of an endangered vulture species, which provide ecosystem services. We combined surveys of 59 farmers with data from 48 GPS-tagged Canarian Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus majorensis endemic to the Spanish Canary Islands) to disentangle factors influencing consistency between farmers’ awareness of vulture occurrence on their properties and vulture behavior. Egyptian vultures were perceived as the main providers of scavenging services and the most beneficial avian scavenger. Consistency between farmers’ perceptions (surveys) and vulture use of their farms (GPS data) was higher in the morning, in older males, and at farms with lower livestock numbers, located near vulture communal roosts, and visited more frequently by vultures. Our results underline the potential influence of modern livestock husbandry in disconnecting people from ecosystems, and how appreciation could be even lower for scarce or threatened ecosystem service providers.