The forest has a story: Cultural ecosystem services in Kona, Hawaii


Understanding cultural dimensions of human/environment relationships is now widely seen as key to effective management, yet characterizing these dimensions remains a challenge. We report on an approach for considering the nonmaterial values associated with ecosystems, i.e., cultural ecosystem services. We applied the approach in Kona, Hawai‘i, using 30 semistructured interviews and 205 in-person surveys, striving to balance pragmatism and depth. We found spirituality, heritage, and identity-related values to be particularly salient, with expression of some of these values varying among respondents by ethnicity and duration of residence in Hawai‘i. Although people of various backgrounds reported strong spirituality and heritage-related values, Native Hawaiians rated heritage connections as deeper, and lifetime residents portrayed ecosystem-identity connections as more integral to their well-being than did people from other backgrounds. The approach also proved useful in identifying concerns not addressed in survey and interview prompts, including postcolonial issues, access to ecosystems, and relationships between people of different ethnic backgrounds. Although understanding these nonmaterial dimensions of human-ecosystem relationships can be complex, emerging techniques eliciting qualitative and quantitative data provide feasible ways of deepening that understanding.

Keywords: environmental decision making, heritage, identity, mixed methods, semistructured interviews, spirituality, surveys, values

Citation: Gould, R.K., N.M. Ardoin, U. Woodside, T. Satterfield, N. Hannahs, and G.C. Daily. 2014 Ecology & Society 19(3):55.

The forest has a story: Cultural ecosystem services in Kona, Hawaii

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