Perceptions of wetland ecosystem services in a region of climatic variability
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Wetlands provide various ecosystem services such as provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural services which may be directly or indirectly beneficial to humans. The manner in which such wetlands are managed is partly determined by human perceptions of their value. However, climatic variability and climate change put the continued provision of such ecosystems under stress. The result is that certain ecosystem services may be provided to differing extents during anomalously wet or dry years. There is thus uncertainty as to the values ascribed to wetlands by people during varying climatic phases. This thesis focuses on understanding how people perceive the functioning of wetlands within our current climate against a background of climatic variability and climate change. This study explores people’s perceptions regarding the functioning of wetlands and ecosystem services provided during dry and wet years, as an indication of how climatic variability and climate change impact peoples’ perceptions. The data was collected in the wetlands of the Agulhas Plain in the Nuwejaars Catchment. Five wetlands classified and scored using the WETEcoServices tool. In addition, five semi-structured interviews and three participatory mapping exercises with landowners were also undertaken. The study reports on the landowners’ awareness of wetland ecosystems, ecosystem services and climatic variability and climate change. Provisioning, supporting, and cultural ecosystem services are frequently used by landowners, which can be impacted by climatic variability and climate change. The WETEcoService benefits and landowners perceptions of ecosystem services varies, as the WETEcoService direct and indirect ecosystem services are either effective or ineffective in dry and wet years. In contrast to landowners perceptions emphasising the importance of ecosystem services directly beneficial to them. The study recommends that the ecosystem services landowners perceive as important is linked to their interest to guarantee their participation in catchment management. WET-EcoService benefits can inform landowners and managers about ecosystem services degradation and whether their conservation methods are either positively or negatively impacting wetlands.