Document Type : Research Paper
Department of Geography,Faculty of Humanities.Tarbiat Modares university.Tehran.Iran
Department of Geography, facultu of Humanities, Tehran, Iran
Ecosystems provide a variety of services to human communities and other organisms, directly or indirectly. Trees, as one of the key elements of the environmental landscape of rural areas, provide a wide range of cultural, supply, regulation, and support services in ecological, social, cultural, and economic dimensions for humans, creatures, and rural environments. Also, trees play a vital role in providing timber and crops such as fruit, providing shelter for living organisms, creating biodiversity, reducing the effects of natural hazards, absorbing carbon dioxide, protecting soil health, regulating climate, and consequently reducing environmental pressures. In addition, they also provide different socio-cultural services to rural communities by providing a fresh perspective for recreation and human well-being. In general, the ecosystem services of trees can play an essential role in creating a thriving and healthy ecosystem, improving mental and physical health, promoting the welfare of rural citizens, and increasing the sustainability and viability of rural settlements.
In the recent years, due to the increasing human activities in rural settlements, such as the expansion of tourism infrastructure and lack of proper land management, the economic dimension is preferred to the ecosystem services, which can lead to reducing ecosystem services and destruction of favorable rural landscapes. Therefore, with the increasing trend of environmental degradation and the related unpleasant consequences in the recent decades, the evaluation of services has grown in importance. In this regard, rural communities, as a major group of stakeholders, have interacted with nature for decades or centuries. Since the historical interaction between socio-cultural and natural systems has influenced the formation of valuation and attitude of rural stakeholders towards trees, it is necessary to evaluate the ecosystem services of trees and focus on understanding and valuing rural stakeholders toward the ecosystem services of trees. So, understanding local priorities and perspectives on tree ecosystem services have always been a concern for related rural managers and decision makers. In this regard, this study aims to analyze the valuation of the socio-cultural of tree ecosystem services in rural areas among local communities of Torqabeh County. Also, the research question is what kind of valuation of rural communities in relation to tree ecosystem services.
The present research is descriptive-analytical and applied in terms of methodology and purpose, respectively.The goal of this research is socio-cultural assessment of trees ecosystem services in the environmental landscape of the rural areas of the Torqabeh district in Binalood city. To achieve the research goal, the data was collected through the documentary-library method and survey method. Also, a questionnaire was designed in the form of 5 indicators and 16 items with the Likert scale (1-5). To operationalize the research, Cochran's formula calculated the sample size with an error of 0.07. The statistical population of the present study includes 183 rural households in 6 villages of Torqabeh County, and the questionnaire was completed in proportion to the people in the sample villages. Finally, the data were analyzed by SPSS software using Friedman, Human Whitney, and Pearson statistical tests.
Results and discussion
According to the results of this study, among the participants, 15 people were in their 20s, 46 people were in their 30s, 46 people were in their 40s, and the remainder were above 50. In terms of occupation, 13.5% were housewives, 23.7% were workers, 56.3% were farmers, and 6.5% had retail jobs. Regarding education, 24% were illiterate and elementary, 55.2% had a diploma, 20.8% had a bachelor's degree or higher.
In order to answer the main question of this study, the results indicated that the valuation of tree ecosystem services by local communities in the study area has been varied based on the views and needs of local people and some variables including gender,occupation, level of education, and monthly income. So, the characteristics of local communities have been related to the different types of valuation of tree ecosystem services and, consequently, the decision to cut down or preserve trees. The results of the Pearson correlation test showed that there was a positive correlation relationship between the job variables of the participants and the indicators of "supply products", "aesthetic value", and "sense of place" due to the significance level of alpha (below 0.05), and according to the type of their job, their attitude and valuation of tree ecosystem services was different. In addition, there is a positive correlation between the average annual income of participants and the indicators of "supply products ", "aesthetic value", "recreational performance", and "sense of place". Also, there is a significant relationship between the age variable of participants and the indicators of "quality of environmental resources" and "recreational performance", and there is a positive correlation between the gender variable and the indicators of "aesthetic value" and "recreational performance". Finally, the variables of education level and "aesthetic value" have a positive correlation. This means that with the increase in the level of education of the local people, in Torghabeh village, the value of trees in terms of aesthetics also increases, and rural educated people believe more in the role of landscape trees in beautifying the rural environment.
Moreover, according to the results, the highest average indices of tree ecosystem services were allocated to Kang and Azghad villages. Also, there is a significant difference between farmers and Tourism employees of sample villages in terms of the valuation of tree ecosystem services. Farmers evaluated the trees ecosystem services in the field of "maintaining the quality of environmental resources", "creating a sense of spatial belonging", and "aesthetic value of trees". Finally, women have a higher average rank than men. Therefore, the group of women allocated a higher value to the trees compared to men.
Keywords: Tree ecosystem services, Rural environment landscape, Environmental resource management, Rural natural heritage, Environmental planning.