Arguably riverine nature based solutions (NbS) offer an innovative approach addressing water related societal challenges such as floods, droughts or poor water quality. Although a commonly agreed-upon definition does not yet exist, the umbrella term of NbS includes measures which are ‘inspired by, supported by or copied from nature’ (European Commission 2015, p. 4) and thus favours an eco-centric approach over pure technical solutions. They include, for example, the maintenance or restoration of wetlands, the widening of floodplains and usage of geo-textiles against erosion (Sutherland et al. 2014).
NbS should have simultaneous benefits for ecology, society and economy (European Commission 2015). While some evidence is increasingly available on the positive effects of NbS on the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainment of essential ecosystem services (e.g. Rousseau et al. 2008), little is known so far about the preferences and values that laypeople attach to NbS. The concept of place attachment offers a useful approach, describing the affective bond between people and place (Altman and Low 1992). Enhancing our understanding about the relationships between NbS and place attachment is crucial for ensuring that local knowledge and values are appropriately considered in the safeguarding or development of NbS.
The aim of this contribution is to explore how citizens interact with, value, and feel attached to existing NbS and technical solutions. Our case study is the Lahn river landscape in Hessen, Germany. The research questions are: (1) Which different meanings and emotional connections do stakeholder report to land uses associated with NbS and technical solutions? and (2) Which differences can be identified in the actual use of land with or without NBS?
The assessment of social data on place meanings, attachment, and interaction, used a public participation GIS (PPGIS) survey method. PPGIS applications are widely used in the fields of urban development (child friendliness, accessibility, environmental justice, etc.), and landscape planning (recreation, ecosystem services, etc.) (Raymond et al. 2009, 2016, Broberg et al. 2013, Brown et al. 2014, Kyttä et al. 2015, Strickland-Munro et al. 2016). This study used an Internet-based PPGIS survey collecting participant’s perception of their environment on a map. Non-spatial questions completed the survey. Invitations to the survey were distributed through local online and print media. For statistical robustness, personal invitation letters were sent out to 1500 households. The survey data was assessed using hotspot- and coldspot-analyses as well as correlation analyses between place meanings, attachment, and interaction and nature-based and technical solutions.
Our results provide insights into the relation between place attachment, local knowledge and the perception of existing NbS. Further, it is discussed how the identified values and meanings could be systematically integrated within the further planning process, and which potential added value this information would yield.
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