Socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services: Uncovering the links between values, drivers of change, and human well-being

Irene Iniesta-Arandia*, Marina García-Llorente, Pedro A. Aguilera, Carlos Montes, Berta Martín-López

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

204 Citations (Scopus)


Ecosystem services studies currently lack information regarding stakeholders' socio-cultural values. This information is highly relevant to human well-being, which is the motivation of ecosystem services assessments. We present results from an analysis of stakeholders' perceptions of ecosystem services, well-being and drivers of change in two semi-arid watersheds in south-eastern Spain. Based on the information compiled through a literature review, participant observation and semi-structured interviews, we designed a questionnaire and conducted 381 interviews. Our results show that semiarid watersheds deliver a large variety of ecosystem services; however, these services are perceived in different ways. We identified five stakeholder groups, including: locals dependent on provisioning ecosystem services, locals not directly dependent on provisioning ecosystem services, environmental and local development professionals and rural and nature tourists. Overall, provisioning services related to traditional practices were perceived as highly important and highly vulnerable by every stakeholder group. However, we found contrasting perceptions of some ecosystem services among stakeholders and of the relevant drivers of change and well-being. We suggest that socio-cultural valuation is a useful tool to prioritize ecosystem services but more attention should be directed to emerging trade-offs. Linking values to other stakeholder perceptions might be a useful way to move forward in ecosystem services valuation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-48
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Critical ecosystem services
  • Semi-arid watershed
  • Social perceptions
  • Stakeholders
  • Tradeoffs
  • Value conflicts


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