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Landscape experiences as a cultural ecosystem service in a Nordic context

Concepts, values and decision-making

image of Landscape experiences as a cultural ecosystem service in a Nordic context

Cultural ecosystem services in the form of experiences derived from landscapes are potentially important, but often overlooked. Given the large and unprecedented landscape changes many of the Nordic countries are undergoing, there is a need to find ways of including people’s preferences and the value of landscape impacts in policy assessments and decision-making processes. The project aim has been to synthesize knowledge about the magnitude and value of landscape experiences, and investigate current practices and examples of how landscape impacts are incorporated (or not) in policy assessments and decision-making contexts in the Nordics. The literature demonstrates potentially high unaccounted welfare loss from landscape change. We find clear weaknesses in current practices, that a second phase will try to address. The project was carried out by Vista Analysis in Oslo and Department of Environmental Science at Aarhus University from 2014–15.

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Introduction

Cultural ecosystem services (ES), one of the four ES categories coined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), is consistently recognized as highly important, but is rarely considered further in scientific ES research or thoroughly in policy assessments. They are often thought of as being “intangible”, “subjective” and difficult to quantify in biophysical or monetary terms (Daniel et al. 2012). The varied experiences people derive from landscapes constitutes a substantial part of these cultural services. A number of elements contribute to the experiences; such as the aesthetic (the perceived harmony and beauty of the landscape), the cultural (the resonance with personal and regional or national history, mythologies and stories), and the spiritual (the sense of opening for or connectedness with something larger than man, which often is linked with recreational qualities and physical and mental health benefits).

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