Although wetlands provide many goods and servicesto people, ecological, economic and sociocultural,they are often undervalued. In particular, thesociocultural importance of wetlands is often ignoredand difficult to capture with traditional economicvaluation methods. There currently exists noframework to assess and value the social and culturalimportance of wetlands. Although sacred sites, landrights and native title based on spiritual relationshipto land are legally recognized, water however is not.A typology of sociocultural functions and valueshas been created in order to assess the socioculturalimportance of wetlands in northern Australia. Thetypology includes tangibles as well as intangibles:human health, cultural heritage, spiritual andexistence value, inspiration and expression,knowledge, sense of place, aesthetic quality, tourismand recreation, and peace and reconciliation.Indicators have been selected for these socioculturalvalues and scores have been attributed to them onthe basis of interviews and best professionaljudgment. Scores have been attributed for differentstakeholders such as Aboriginal people, fishers,pastoralists and tourists, who make different uses ofwater and hold different sociocultural values relatedto water and land.Remaining challenges include the selection ofappropriate indicators and valuation processes; theneed for the application of appropriate guidelinesand methodologies to assess the socioculturalimportance of wetlands; setting in placemanagement methods and policy instruments thatfacilitate integration of sociocultural importance; andfacilitating equitable trade-offs and compensationmechanisms between intangible values anddevelopment, conservation and poverty alleviation.
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