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Sense of Place

Ecosystems (particularly shared places) provide opportunities for people to develop a sense of belonging, commitment, identity and community.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Service Category

Cultural Services


What is a sense of place and how is it derived?

Feeling at home in our place gives us a sense of identity, self fulfilment and meaning.

Fredrickson and Anderson record that other scholars (in architecture, landscape architecture and geography) have found that "specific places have the capacity to instill in people a meaningful 'sense of place'". Thomashow argues that, when we are connected to place, then we understand more about what it means to be compassionate for all things. It is clear that these experiences are independent of the precise nature of the environment: marine, forest, cultivated and aquatic locations, as well as aspects of ecosystems for example trees, water or mountains, are all efficacious.

Feeling at home in our place gives us a sense of identity, self fulfilment and meaning. This sense of being grounded and at home provides us with our best opportunities for self expression and empowerment. A sense of belonging to a place gives us a feeling of ownership and commitment to that place, protection and nourishment. Identifying more closely with a place and it's nature often leads to taking greater action on their part to protect, conserve and look after that place.

Although it is recognised a sense of place is not necessarily derived from one particular ecosystem or function, Table 1 presents the magnitude different ecosystem functions contribute to this service (relative to other ecosystem functions). In SEQ we have many unique and iconic ecosystems, plants and animals. We have our beaches, mountains, rivers, wetlands, coastal seas, bays and islands. Our amenable climate of warm weather and sunshine (climate regulation) also contribute to our sense of place. We stiill have some larger intact natural areas and many smaller bushland patches (supporting habitats) that we can enjoy nature in and find educational, scientific, personal and religious growth opportunies (landscape opportunity). We have many unique landscapes from ancient volcanos to scenic sandstone areas. The favourable climate and rich marine resources give a range of foods and raw materials that attract unique species and support the human cultures of SEQ.


Table 1:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem functions) each ecosystem function contributes to Sense of Place.

Ecosystem Function Category Ecosystem Function 0
Regulating Functions
Gas Regulation

Climate Regulation

Disturbance Regulation

Water Regulation

Soil Retention

Nutrient Regulation

Waste Treatment and Assimilation


Biological Control

Barrier Effect of Vegetation

Supporting Functions
Supporting Habitats

Soil Formation

Provisioning Functions

Raw Materials

Water Supply

Genetic Resources

Provision of Shade and Shelter

Pharmacological Resources

Cultural Functions
Landscape Opportunity



For many in people in SEQ and Australia beaches provide a sense of place.

Overuse and pollution can affect an individual's or community's sense of place.

While we do need physical access to areas of environment to gain a sense of place, a lot of that sense can come from either just knowing that place exists (existance values) or just being able to see it, smell it or hear it. For example, on the Sunshine Coast in SEQ, many people may experience a sense of place when driving to Brisbane and vewing the great Tibrogargan part of the Glass House Mountains. They may however never actually visit or touch the great mountain itself.

A range of ecosystem services, geographic and socio-economic variables will contribute to the individual's sense of place (e.g. spatial placement in the landscape, geography, climate, cultural and religious values, level of previous interaction with nature, time living in the area, personal relationships and socio-economic position - to name just a few).


Are there any barriers to people receiving this ecosystem service and its benefits?

The continual destruction of the natural environment and its continuing degradatiion through overuse or pollution can handicap our ability to find sense of place. Inceasingly it is harder for people to enjoy their local creek, their local bushland through their destruction, degradation or lack of access (e.g. many natural areas are now located on private property).

Population pressures also make it harder to find a quiet uncrowded, unsploilt space to enjoy nature. Failure of planning systems to protect enough nature or to hold what we have will eventually destroy the sense of place we now have. The increasing overreliance on indoor or globalised entertainments and activities will degragde peoples ability to grow a local sense of place.

This ecosystem service provides many benefits that contribute both directly and indirectly to the well-being of the SEQ community. The Constituents of Well-being this ecosystem service contributes to are presented in Table 2 below. Further information on these constituents and how ecosystem services contribute to them can be obtained by clicking on the links in the table.

Table 2:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem services) Sense of Place contributes to each constituent of well-being.

Well-being Category Constituent of Well-being 0
Physical Health            
Mental Health            
Secure and Continuous Supply of Services            
Security of Person            
Security of Health            
Secure Access to Services            
Security of Property            
Good Social Relations
Family Cohesion            
Community and Social Cohesion            
Freedom of Choice and Action
Social and Economic Freedom            
Self Actualisation            



Monitoring the area and extent of those areas that contribute to landscape opportunities and other vital ecosytem functions is our best opportunity to provide an indicator for this ecosystem service. Improving protection of those areas would ensure the long term survivial of these important areas and a good indicator of improving this service.


How is this ecosystem service currently managed in SEQ?

This service is not exhaustible in the sense that the provision of a certain level of 'sense of place' does not preclude others from having a sense of place. There are no organisations, institutions, laws or regulations governing the provision of this ecosystem service.