Spatial units for the assessment of cultural ecosystem services: the cultural heritage value of Scottish landscapes

Authors and Affiliations: 

N. Stanik 1,2, I. Aalders 1

1 The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler Aberdeen AB15 8QH (Scotland UK)

2 University of Kassel, Department of Landscape and Vegetation Ecology, Gottschalkstrasse 26a, Kassel (Germany)

Corresponding author: 
N. Stanik

In the ecosystem service (ESS) framework cultural ecosystem services (CES) are lagging behind other ESSs in the availability of consistent methods, strong indicators and appropriate use of spatial geographical units (La Rosa et al. 2016). Across different ESS assessment methods and tools (Grêt-Regamey et al. 2015), theories and concepts from landscape sciences have an important role in the ESS framework. This paper will use cultural heritage values to illustrate that a CES assessment by landscape unit is an appropriate spatial unit to strengthen CES’s position within the ESS framework (Haines-Young & Potschin 2013).
Landscapes, in particular ‘cultural landscapes’, contain physical and non-physical traces from the past, which gives landscapes meanings, and build a sense of identity and belonging for the people (Plachter & Rössler 1995). Therefore cultural heritage values of landscapes develop their specific heritage values only in a particular spatial context (Tengberg et al. 2012).
The concept of landscapes – based on the European Landscape Convention (ELC) – is finding increased recognition for its role in the interdisciplinary ESS discourse (Portman 2013; Plieninger et al. 2015; Mocior & Kruse 2016). As a spatial assessment unit the advantage of systematically, and coherently defined landscape areas is their inherent reflection of social-ecological interactions over space and time, which is essential to CES. UK’s, ‘landscape character areas’ (LCA) represent this ELC concept of landscapes as homogenous shaped areas (Martin & Swanwick 2003; Hamilton & Selman 2005).
Our contribution is a methodological comparison study. The study was conducted in a case study area in Scotland (Isle of Mull), where we applied an assessment framework, which is based on a GIS-process of selected indicators (i.e. Tveit et al. 2006). The framework consists of two modules: (1) the assessment of ‘time depth’, and (2) ‘historical richness’ of each unit. The ‘time depth’ represents the introduction of early and current land uses, and how often land use changed among pre-defined periods. The ‘historical richness’ includes the number and diversity of important cultural element types within units. Eventually, the modules are joined together into an overall cultural-historic value for each unit.
This paper will present the results of a comparison with different spatial units: landscape, habitat and raster units. This illustrates the role of ‘landscapes’ as a spatial unit for mapping Cultural Heritage values, which reflects a clear and comprehensive narrative of historic human activities that have shaped today's landscapes across multiple habitats. We argue that in the context of CES, habitats represent an output of a special land-use type and natural site conditions rather than the complexity of human-nature interactions within a historically or currently relevant sphere of people’s activity and perception, and that assessment of ESS in the context of coherent and spatially unique landscapes is important for the understanding of ESS interaction and assessment of trade-offs.
Therefore, the concept of landscape opens new perspectives on the assessment of CES and provides theoretical and methodological benefits to the ESS debate to transfer findings into policy and decision-making.


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