Connectedness to nature: Mapping the role of protected areas
Connectedness to nature (CNT) is likely to be a strong influence on how local communities and stakeholders respond to designation and management of protected areas. This study explores relationships between CNT and location, using the Maltese Islands as a case study. The intensity of CNT, as expressed by a sample of household respondents across the islands (n = 401), was measured using the Nature Relatedness Scale (NRS). Respondents were also asked to indicate places that are significant for their own connection with nature. Results were mapped and analysed with respect to the location of two types of protected areas: Natura 2000 sites and Urban Conservation Areas. The bulk of special places of high CNT identified by respondents were located in or very close to Natura 2000 sites, regardless of respondents’ place of residence and regardless of protected area size. Protected natural areas are therefore important loci of community attachment with nature. Managers of such sites can potentially leverage this attachment to enhance community engagement in conservation and to contribute to increased nature connectedness in the community. However, this study also noted a not-insignificant contribution to CNT from urban or non-protected sites, providing support for adoption of landscape approaches that focus holistically on spaces that provide a context for daily life.
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Image Source: Brian Restall