Preferences for semi-natural areas in the agricultural landscape

Authors and Affiliations: 

Svein Olav Krøgli, Wenche Dramstad, Grete Stokstad
The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), Po. Box 115, NO-1431 Ås, Norway

Corresponding author: 
Svein Olav Krøgli

It is well documented how agricultural landscapes have changed in many European regions. In some landscapes, the dominating trend has been a decline in agriculture. In other landscapes, the dominating trend has been a productivity increase. A side effect of which has been a wide variety of agricultural landscape changes, typically as a result of changes in farm structure, choice of crops and changes in technology (larger machinery). Common landscape changes were removal of landscape elements such as open ditches, rocky outcrops and ponds. These changes have had effects e.g. on species abundance and diversity, documented from many different regions. What has been less well documented, however, is how people perceive these changes. Are these elements preferred agricultural landscapes elements “in their own right”?

Larger field size is one of the landscape changes observed in south-eastern Norway. The objectives of this study was to investigate how different types and amount of semi-natural areas and field sizes influence peoples preferences for these landscapes. Common goods tied to the agricultural landscape are one of the official reasons for supporting agriculture. However, how this aim is emphasised by the authorities has changed over time. Currently, the emphasis is again centred on produced volume and efficiency, and less on public goods. Thus, in this study we also investigate to what extent people’s view of the main objectives (common goods) of the agricultural landscape is “in sync” with current policy, and if it affects their preferences.

Another objective of this study is to assess the extent to which we can use map-based indices as a proxy for public perception and preferences of the agricultural landscape. To achieve this, we also analyse if and how the assessment of these landscape elements vary with spatial context using GIS-analysis and indices from existing and revised maps.

Preference data is captured using a web based survey where the respondent rank manipulated photographs from a relatively large scale Norwegian agricultural landscape. The original photo is displayed together with five additional photos, where semi-natural elements are removed in a bit-wise manner. The photos in the series are then ranked by the respondent based on which landscape they prefer more or less. Three different sets of photos are ranked by all respondents. In addition, respondents answer a few questions, e.g. on what they see as the main objectives in the Norwegian agricultural landscapes.

Preliminary results based on data captured so far indicate that very few consider food production to be the only important objective of the Norwegian agricultural landscape. It is listed as one of the main goals, and in most cases listed together with the objective to maintain biodiversity. Further, smaller field sizes and more semi-natural areas are preferred over larger field size and less semi-natural areas by a large majority of the respondents.



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