Community Ecosystem Services Values Support Conservation and Sustainable Landscape Development: Perspectives From Four University of California Campuses

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Virginia Tech

Urban landscapes homogenize our world at global scales. This sameness contributes to "extinction of experience", where people feel increasingly disconnected from native ecosystems and the services they provide. Numerous approaches have been proposed for combatting extinction of experience, all of which require community support to be successful. Because comparative assessments are relatively rare, however, it is difficult to say which options are most supported. We addresses this knowledge gap using human subject surveys and multi-criteria decision analysis to evaluate landscape preferences and their implications for three approaches recommended to combat extinction of experience: ecosystem conservation, turf replacement and nature-based solutions. Our study focuses on universities in Southern California, where native ecosystem remnants, nature-based solutions, lawns, and ornamental gardens co-exist, which is necessary to compare community support for transitions among them. Our results suggest that conservation of native ecosystems, particularly sage scrub (top ranked landscape overall), is well supported by campus communities, as are turf replacement programs (lawns ranked lowest overall). Support for nature-based solutions was more intermediate (and variable), which may reflect their relative newness, both on university campuses and in urban spaces more generally. Not all university populations preferred the same landscapes; preferences differed with degree of pro-environmentalism and university status (undergrad, graduate student, staff). Even so, all groups exhibited landscape preferences consistent with at least one approach for combatting extinction of experience. This suggests we have a viable set of tools for increasing native ecosystem exposure on university campuses, and ultimately, in the next generation of urban homeowners.

nature-based solutions, ecosystem services, sustainable development, conservation