Awareness and perceptions of ecosystem services in relation to land use types: Evidence from rural communities in Nigeria
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For the ecosystem service (ES) paradigm to be relevant to policy and decision-making, it is important to integrate local residents' awareness and perceptions of ES into ES assessment. Using data collected from 102 villages in Nigeria, we assessed communities' awareness and perceptions of a broad range of ES in relation to land use types. We also examined the factors that affected awareness levels across communities. While provisioning services were generally recognized, a majority of the villages also appreciated spiritual values as a cultural service. Awareness of regulating and supporting services, including those that were important for maintaining the stability and productivity of agroecosystems, was generally low. Exposure to forest, unused land, and lowland floodplain was positively correlated with respondents' awareness. In addition, socio-economic and cultural factors such as ethnicity and food intake status had important influence on the awareness levels, whereas adult literacy and government extension programs had limited influence. These results underscore the importance of direct experience and local context in shaping people's awareness about ES. While communities demonstrated diverse ways of using land and deriving ES, much remains to be done to increase awareness and knowledge among communities about the benefits and provision of ES in Nigeria.
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