Ecosystem service importance and use vary with socio-environmental factors: A study from household-surveys in local communities of South Africa
Abstract Ecosystem services (ESs) underpin human livelihoods around the world. Understanding how socio-environmental aspects influence stakeholders’ perceptions and use of ESs, is important for decision-making processes that target the social expectations. In this study, face-to-face interviews were conducted with eighty-six householders in four villages of Limpopo province (South Africa), to assess the importance and use of ESs. Descriptive rank analysis, ordered logistic regression and Poisson generalised linear mixed-effects models were used. Supporting and provisioning ESs were rated the most important, followed by regulating and cultural ESs. Among the provisioning ESs, timber, firewood and edible plants were the most important, the most cited and used. Age, gender, income and prior recreational experiences played important roles in householders’ perceptions. The frequency of collection of provisioning ESs declined with increasing distance to the forest and presence of foothills in landscape, which formed natural barriers. The results further revealed that employed householders benefited more from these services than unemployed householders. However, there was no significant effect of income variable on the use of the provisioning ESs, suggesting that the collection is more likely oriented towards a domestic usage. The implications of the results were discussed in a context of local development planning. Highlights Socio-economic and environmental factors were related to the importance and use of ES. Supporting and provisioning ESs were perceived as the most important by respondents. Age and gender influenced the perceptions of supporting and provisioning ESs. Respondents’ past experiences determined their positive attitude towards cultural ESs. Use of provisioning ESs varied with socio-economic factors and spatial constraints.
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