Sustainable river management frameworks are based on the connection between citizens and nature. So far, though, the relationship between rivers and local populations has played a marginal role in river management. Here, we present a blueprint questionnaire to characterize the perception of cultural ecosystem services (CES) by locals, and how preferences change across the river landscape. We investigate how locals value the river and whether their preferences are affected by characteristics such as place of residence, age, frequency of visits and relation to the river. The questionnaire was filled in by more than 4000 respondents, demonstrating huge interest and willingness to contribute to the project. A striking 85% of respondents identify a spiritual value of the river, suggesting a strong emotional connection. River conservation is the main priority for most respondents across the different groups. The map of favorite places shows that most of the river is appreciated by locals, with a high preference for the landscape of the braided middle course. The most valued area of the river, located in the middle course, faces threats due to dam construction projects, which would modify the natural course of the river and likely impact the favorite places of the locals. Our study highlights discrepancies between management choices and citizens ' values and priorities, and shows the need for including river values and CES in river management and their potential role for tackling conflicts. More generally, this work points out that any river intervention should be pondered carefully accounting for its environmental impact also in terms of loss of river values.
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