Spatial Modelling of Cultural Ecosystem Services in River Landscapes

Authors and Affiliations: 

Julia Thiele1, Christian Albert2, Christina von Haaren1, Johannes Hermes1

1 Leibniz Universität Hannover, Institute of Environmental Planning, Herrenhäuser Str. 2, 30419 Hannover, Germany.
2 Leibniz Universität Hannover, Institute of Environmental Planning, Research Group PlanSmart, Herrenhäuser Str. 2, 30419 Hannover, Germany

Corresponding author: 
Julia Thiele

River landscapes can provide diverse cultural ecosystem services (CES, also termed non-material benefits) to people: they are sources of inspiration, places for the enjoyment of landscape aesthetics, and sites of important natural and cultural heritage. In addition, people use river landscapes directly for various outdoor activities such as kayaking, recreational fishing or cycling (Chan et al., 2012; Rodrigues, 2015).
The capacity of river landscapes to actually provide all these cultural ecosystem services has however decreased as rivers and their floodplains were transformed to allow and increase navigability, agricultural production, and settlements. Various policy and planning initiatives have been initialized to safeguard remaining ‘natural’ river landscapes, and to enhance or restore more transformed river stretches. Providing more information on the quantity and values that river landscapes provide in terms of cultural ecosystem services could contribute to and facilitate the implementation of these river landscape conservation and restoration activities.
The aim of this contribution is to present a method to asses cultural ecosystem services of river landscapes in Germany as support of plan- and decision-making at national and sub-national levels.
The contribution focuses the CES types ‘landscape aesthetics’, ‘natural and cultural heritage’, ‘education and science’, as well as ‘unspecific interactions’ (e.g. nature observation) and ‘water-based activities’ (e.g. angling, boating). The development of indicators was based on the Practice-Oriented Ecosystem Service Evaluation Model (Haaren et al., 2014; Albert et al., 2016) according to which a distinction was made between indicators referring to the offered CES, the human input of relevance for utilizing the CES, as well as the actual use of CES. A geographic information system (GIS) is employed to quantify the indicators for offered CES and human input (Fig. 1), while the quantification of the actual usage is based on survey results. Moreover, landscape aesthetic is statistically analysed for different large-scale water landscapes and riparian zones sections like historical riparian zone or recent floodplain, because landscape aesthetics is a key indicator for CES (Tab. 1).
The research results contribute to the implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy and shall provide valuable information to policy-, plan- and decision-makers in support of efforts for navigating towards more sustainable developments of river landscapes. The quantification of CES of river landscapes is part of the project “River Ecosystem Service Index”, which is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research that has launched the funding measure “Regional Water Resources Management– ReWaM”.


Albert, C., Galler, C., Hermes, J., Neuendorf, F., Haaren, C. von, Lovett, A., 2016. Applying ecosystem services indicators in landscape planning and management. The ES-in-Planning framework. Ecological Indicators 61, 100–113.
Chan, K.M., Satterfield, T., Goldstein, J., 2012. Rethinking ecosystem services to better address and navigate cultural values. Ecological Economics 74, 8–18.
Haaren, C. von, Albert, C., Barkmann, J., Groot, R.S. de, Spangenberg, J.H., Schröter-Schlaack, C., Hansjürgens, B., 2014. From explanation to application. Introducing a practice-oriented ecosystem services evaluation (PRESET) model adapted to the context of landscape planning and management. Landscape Ecol 29 (8), 1335–1346.
Rodrigues, J.M.G., 2015. Cultural Services in Aquatic Ecosystems, in: Chicharo, L., Müller, F., Fohrer, N. (Eds.), Ecosystem Services and River Basin Ecohydrology. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp. 35–56.

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