Cultural Ecosystem Services and Popular Perceptions of the Benefits of an Ecological Restoration Project in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest



It is essential to understand how ecological restoration (ER) improves human well-being in order to justify more investments and upscaling in this emergent field of action. As part of a 22-year-old, 80 ha ER project being carried out around a water reservoir that supplies drinking water to the city of Iracemápolis (population 19,700), in the mega-diversity Atlantic Forest biome of Brazil, we assessed local community perceptions of the tangible and intangible benefits expected to arise from this project. A detailed questionnaire was completed for 292 members of the local community to gauge perceptions of benefits arising from various cultural and provisioning ecosystem services (ESs; especially safe and clean drinking water) provided by the 80 ha forest restoration project. A striking 94% of those interviewed wanted more ER projects in their community. Participants reported an appreciation for cultural ESs such as esthetic landscape improvement, tourism, recreation, as well as various religious, spiritual, and educational services. In addition, 87% of interviewees believed that the restoration project improved the quality of their drinking water, and 63% said they would agree to an increase in water tariffs if the proceeds were to be invested in more forest restoration. Judging from this study, investigation and subsequent communication of popular perceptions of the various benefits of ER projects could promote consensus-building and support for projects among stakeholders, and inform governmental and societal investments in restoration.