By: Hila Sagie, Avigail Morris, Yodan Rofè, Daniel E. Orenstein & Elli Groner

Source: Journal of Arid Environments, Volume 97, October 2013, Pages 38–48

Abstract: This research explores local resident perspectives on ecosystem services (ES) in the hyper-arid Arava Valley/Wadi Araba, which spans across both Israel and Jordan. Identifying and characterizing ES, an increasingly popular precursor for crafting sustainable natural resource management and land use policy, is an inherently multi-disciplinary endeavor. Our goal is to apply social research tools, in particular in-depth interviews with local residents, to understand their perspectives concerning ES. Since the research is conducted on two sides of an international border, it also illuminates the potential role of culture, nationality and economics in formulating perceptions on ES in deserts.

The results show that, although deserts are often considered to be lacking in ES, local residents feel that their environment is abundant in services, particularly cultural services. Furthermore, although they live in a nearly identical ecosystem, local residents from two sides of the border showed distinct differences, as well as some shared patterns, in how they use and value ES. The study highlights the importance of applying social methods for ES identification and characterization in tandem with other disciplinary approaches, in order to avoid common problems including disregard of the importance of social and cultural perspectives, leading to undervaluing of intangible cultural services.

Keywords: Bedouin villages; Cultural services; Ecosystem disservices; In-depth interviews; Kibbutz; Provisioning services; Trans-boundary