Consideration of the social values people assign to relatively undisturbed native ecosystems is critical for the success of science-based conservation plans. We used an interview process to identify and map social values assigned to 31 ecosystem services provided by natural areas in an agricultural landscape in southern Australia. We then modeled the spatial distribution of 12 components of ecological value commonly used in setting spatial conservation priorities. We used the analytical hierarchy process to weight these components and used multiattribute utility theory to combine them into a single spatial layer of ecological value. Social values assigned to natural areas were negatively correlated with ecological values overall, but were positively correlated with some components of ecological value. In terms of the spatial distribution of values, people valued protected areas, whereas those natural areas underrepresented in the reserve system were of higher ecological value. The habitats of threatened animal species were assigned both high ecological value and high social value. Only small areas were assigned both high ecological value and high social value in the study area, whereas large areas of high ecological value were of low social value, and vice versa. We used the assigned ecological and social values to identify different conservation strategies (e.g., information sharing, community engagement, incentive payments) that may be effective for specific areas. We suggest that consideration of both ecological and social values in selection of conservation strategies can enhance the success of science-based conservation planning.
©2010 Society for Conservation Biology.