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Mapping perceived social values to support a respondent-defined restoration economy: Case study in southeastern Arizona, USA

April 21, 2020

Investment in conservation and ecological restoration depends on various socioeconomic factors and the social license for these activities. Our study demonstrates a method for targeting management of ecosystem services based on social values, identified by respondents through a collection of social survey data. We applied the Social Values for Ecosystem Services (SolVES) geographic information systems (GIS)-based tool in the Sonoita Creek watershed, Arizona, to map social values across the watershed. The survey focused on how respondents engage with the landscape, including through their ranking of 12 social values (eg, recreational, economic, or aesthetic value) and their placement of points on a map to identify their associations with the landscape. Additional information was elicited regarding how respondents engaged with water and various land uses, as well as their familiarity with restoration terminology. Results show how respondents perceive benefits from the natural environment. Specifically, maps of social values on the landscape show high social value along streamlines. Life-sustaining services, biological diversity, and aesthetics were the respondents’ highest rated social values. Land surrounding National Forest and private lands had lower values than conservation-based and state-owned areas, which we associate with landscape features. Results can inform watershed management by allowing managers to consider social values when prioritizing restoration or conservation investments.