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Valuation of aesthetic ecosystem services of protected coastal dunes and forests

Urbis, Arvydas, Povilanskas, Ramūnas, Newton, Alice
Ocean & coastal management 2019 v.179 pp. 104832
aesthetic value, aesthetics, biodiversity conservation, case studies, coastal zone management, dunes, ecosystem services, forests, interviews, issues and policy, landscapes, photographs, stakeholders, summer, surveys, Lithuania
This study was implemented in the context of the emerging concept of aesthetic ecosystem services (AES) of coastal protected dunes and forests. The main problem addressed was that many coastal management research case studies focusing on AES still rely on the objectivist paradigm, eliciting aesthetic values based on objective sets of criteria independent from human perception ‘here and now’. This doesn't use the knowledge accrued from several decades of psychophysical studies in landscape aesthetics using photographs as visual stimuli, due to the complexity of the psychophysical approach. The study bridges this major research gap by eliciting the preferences for and the attractiveness of coastal landscapes that are founded in the landscape's physical attributes. An innovative ‘quali-quantitative’ methodology was applied, combining both quantitative (paired comparison survey) and qualitative (semi-structured in-depth interviews) methods for valuation and interpretation of coastal AES. The main aim of the study was to test a ‘quali-quantitative’ methodology for the valuation of AES of protected coastal dunes and forests, using the Curonian Spit (Lithuania) as a case study. The key finding of the quantitative survey was that domestic summer visitors found the open landscapes of the Curonian Spit most attractive, especially 1) White mobile dunes; 2) White dunes with grey dunes in the background; 3) Grey dunes with white dunes in the background. The main result of the qualitative survey was that local stakeholders living on the Curonian Spit consider the concept of visual coherence as best explaining the aesthetic appeal of the dune and forest landscapes on the spit. The main associated policy recommendation to coastal management policymakers on the Curonian Spit, and in other protected coastal dune areas, is to pay more attention to AES along with the care for biodiversity conservation and for other tangible dune ecosystem services.