The use of socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services for the prediction of landscape preferences

Authors and Affiliations: 

Katja Schmidt, Landscape Management Group, University of Potsdam
Ariane Walz, Landscape Management Group, University of Potsdam,
Berta Martín-Lopez, Sustainability Science, Institute of Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Leuphana University of Lüneburg

Corresponding author: 
Katja Schmidt

In the light of rapid land use transitions, sustainable land management has become a central challenge in environmental policy (Antrop, 2005; Garcia-Llorente et al., 2012). Several European as well as national policies recognise people’s preferences in land use and management as a crucial element to determine land use policies (e.g. European Landscape Convention, Scottish Land Use Strategy). Though the extent of its actual effect on decision-making remains undetermined, the application of the ecosystem approach is thought to increase public involvement and therefore contribute to a more informed land management (Jordan and Russell, 2014). Socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services has the potential to integrate stakeholder opinions into decision-making but until now lacks a balanced application in ecosystem service assessments, partly because of the lack of robustness of available methods (Nieto-Romero, 2014). In this contribution, we examine the relationship between socio-cultural values of ecosystem services and landscape preferences to improve the understanding of the potential and limitations of socio-cultural valuation for sustainable land management. We use 563 responses to a visitor survey in the Pentland Hills Regional Park in Scotland to assess the explanatory value of ecosystem service values for landscape preferences. Ecosystem services values were derived by rating and weighting exercises while land use preferences were assessed by rating different land uses with a novel tool for the assessment and visualization of land use preferences (LANDPREF). Specifically, we aim to (1) identify clusters of landscape preferences by using LANDPREF, (2) test if socio-cultural values of ecosystem services or, (3) visitor characteristics are linked with different clusters of these landscape preferences, and (4) determine whether both socio-cultural values of ecosystem services and user characteristics can predict landscape preferences. Our results suggest that (1) there are five groups of people with different landscape preferences in the Pentland Hills, ranging from forest and nature enthusiasts to traditionalists, multi-functionalists and recreation seekers. (2) Rating and weighting of ecosystem services and (3) user characteristics were associated with different clusters of land use preferences. (4) Neither socio-cultural values nor user characteristics were suitable predictors for landscape preferences. Our findings imply that ecosystem service values inform about general perceptions and preferences of benefits provided by ecosystems but they do not replace the assessment of landscape preferences.


Antrop, M. 2005. Why landscapes of the past are important for the future, Landscape and Urban Planning 70(1–2):21-34.

Garcia-Llorente, M., Martin-Lopez, B., Iniesta-Arandia, I., Lopez-Santiago, C. A., Aguilera, P. A., Montes, C. 2012. The role of multi-functionality in social preferences toward semi-arid rural landscapes: An ecosystem service approach, Environmental Science & Policy 19-20:136-146.

Jordan, A., Russel, D. 2014. Embedding the Concept of Ecosystem Services? The Utilisation of Ecological Knowledge in Different Policy Venues, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 32(2):192-207.

Nieto-Romero M, Oteros-Rozas E, González JA, Martín-López B. 2014. Exploring the knowledge landscape of ecosystem services assessments in Mediterranean agroecosystems: Insights for future research. Environmental Science & Policy 37(0):121-133.

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