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Public support for restoration: Does including ecosystem services as a goal engage a different set of values and attitudes than biodiversity protection alone?

, Kerrie A. Wilson
Published: 19 January 2021
PLOS ONE , Volume 16; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0245074

Abstract: The ecosystem services concept has come into wide use in conservation and natural resource management, partly due to its appeal as an anthropocentric rationale for protecting and restoring nature. Proponents of the ecosystem services concept expect that presenting these arguments alongside biodiversity arguments should lead to a broader base of support for conservation. This raises the question of whether support for activities that ensure ecosystem service provision relates to different sets of core values, or environmental attitudes, than support for biodiversity protection. We surveyed adult Australians to evaluate the influence of values and attitudes on willingness to pay for different habitat restoration outcomes. We hypothesized that when restoration is framed with an anthropocentric rationale (such as ecosystem service provision), support for restoration would align more strongly with anthropocentric or self-centered values and attitudes. Specifically, we tested if preference for ecosystem service benefits over biodiversity attributes, as indicated by willingness to pay in different restoration scenarios, is more strongly associated with self-enhancing (Egoistic) than self-transcending (Altruistic and Biospheric) values, and more associated with a pro-use attitude towards nature (Utilization) than an anti-use attitude (Preservation). We found that support for habitat restoration is generally based on ecocentric values and attitudes, but that positive associations between pro-environmental behavior and Egoistic values emerge when emphasis is placed on ecosystem service outcomes. Individuals scoring higher on Egoistic/Utilization metrics were also more likely to anticipate disservices from restoration. Attitudes predicted behavioral intention (willingness to pay) better than core values. Our results support the notion that the ecosystem services concept garners nontraditional backers and broadens the appeal of ecological restoration.
Keywords: Recreation / biodiversity / Conservation science / Ecosystems / Psychological Attitudes / ecological economics / Altruistic Behavior / restoration ecology

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