Ecological restoration in Tibet optimises the cognitive structures of stakeholders on social-ecological systems.

Published online
12 Oct 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Wang YiJia & Liu YanXu & Wu XuTong & Wang XinSheng & Yao Ying & Zhang ZhiWei & Fu BoJie
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Tibet & China


Facing the dual threats of climate and socioeconomic changes, how Tibet can seize the opportunity for ecological restoration to enhance environmental quality while improving the relationship between humans and nature is of great significance for regional sustainable development. Situated in an ecologically vulnerable area, the cognitive structure of Tibetan residents regarding resources and policies is a crucial reference for evaluating whether environmental governance is sustainable. We aimed to detect what impact ecological restoration in Tibet had on the cognitive structures of stakeholders. We distributed questionnaires to Tibetan residents, distinguished experimental groups (EG, n = 325) and control groups (CG, n = 165) by the implementation of ecological restoration projects or not, used a network approach to construct indicators of overall connectivity and evenness for assessing the cognitive structure and explored the influencing factors on cognitive structures. We found that interviewees in areas where ecological restoration was implemented had more positive perceptions of the importance of ecosystem services, the relationship between ecological conservation and well-being, attitudes towards ecological restoration, and the impact of governance measures. The overall connectivity and evenness of the EG were significantly higher than those of the CG. It showed an increase in positive stakeholder perceptions about policy and nature and a greater emphasis on the balance between environmental protection and productive life. The implementation of ecological restoration enhanced the connection between local people and the environment. Elevation and annual precipitation were the geographic influencing factors that dominated overall connectivity. Based on the cognitive structure of Tibetan residents, the implementation of ecological restoration enhanced connections in social-ecological systems elements, played a positive role in the human-nature relationship and promoted collective governance of common pool resources. Safeguarding and improving residents' livelihoods and enhancing the regional low-connectivity cognitive structure under different geographical contexts are important for future governance.

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