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Place connections are core to being human: Every person lives in, and thus has direct experience of, at least one place and likely of numerous places throughout a lifetime. Sense of place—or the meanings, knowledge, and bonds that arise from the biophysical, social, and political–economic aspects of places—in turn influences people's interactions with those places. Of particular interest to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, such interactions can impact place-protective, stewardship, or conservation behaviors. However, how sense of place develops and what it represents is shifting in today's rapidly urbanizing, globalizing world. Especially when considering the integrated social–ecological context, questions related to how sense of place forms and is enacted in urban settings and at a range of geographic scales are challenging to study. Our study addresses this dynamic space: We examined how people's place connections intersect with their notions of geographic scale and levels of urbanity. Specifically, we conducted a 1201-person randomized telephone survey in the San Francisco Bay Area ecoregion of California, USA, to explore how sense of place varies by (1) the scale of what people consider to be their place, and (2) the urbanity of where people live. In comparison with respondents who perceived their place as the larger-scale ecoregion, we found that respondents who perceived their place as primarily focused on the urban area rated their connection to the biophysical aspects of place (the plants, animals, and landscape-related elements) lower. Similarly, overall, respondents who lived in urban areas rated their connections to the biophysical aspects of place lower than did respondents who lived in non-urban areas. Our findings suggest the importance of encouraging conceptualizations of place at broader geographic scales and, particularly, of supporting notions of urban spaces that stretch beyond urban boundaries. We also call for supporting increased engagement with urban nature, especially among residents of urban areas.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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