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The impact of field layer characteristics on forest preference in Southern Scandinavia

Nielsen, Anders Busse, Gundersen, Vegard Sverre, Jensen, Frank Søndergaard
Landscape and urban planning 2018 v.170 pp. 221-230
Internet, adults, ecosystem services, experts, forest management, forest policy, forests, grasses, hardwood, photographs, planning, surveys, Denmark, Norway, Scandinavia, Sweden
Results from preference studies have been instrumental for including the general public’s recreational preferences into forest policy, planning and management. Although recreational preferences have been studied intensively for approximately four decades, field layer characteristics have received very limited attention in Nordic countries and elsewhere. A representative experimental internet survey was conducted among adults (aged +18 years) in the nemoral and boreonemoral vegetation zone of the Scandinavian Peninsula, i.e. the coastal, most southern part of Norway, southern Sweden and all of Denmark. Survey participants (n=4646) were asked to rank seven photographs that had been randomly selected from 30 digitally-edited photographs of oak and mixed hardwoods in three different stages of development and with five different field layer types. Young forests with the preferred field layer (anemone and litter) were ranked over mature and middle-aged forests with the disliked field layer (rough field layers or withered grass). In fact, anemone consistently increased the preference ranking of a stand compared to other stands, while rough field layer and withered grass reduced the preference. These findings challenge the general view among experts that field layer vegetation only makes a marginal contribution to the recreational value of forests compared to other structural attributes. The implications of this and questions for future research are discussed, as well as perspectives for forest management prompted by the results. The focus of this discussion is on urban and peri-urban forests, where recreational value is often the most highly valued ecosystem service.