The ongoing European integration forces Switzerland to reduce its agricultural protectionism in the long run. At least for mountainous regions it is very likely that without the introduction of EC-compatible state subsistances—such as direct payments — large parts of the cultivated land might be abandoned and subject to spontaneous reafforestation. These subsidies, however, can be justified only if society assesses the prevention of old-field succession positively. In this context, landscape preference is a decisive criterion. In the present study perception and visual assessment of old-field succession was investigated in the central Alpine part of Switzerland, a region with an increasing amount of abandoned land. Using the social-science-technique of qualitative interviews, tourists and locals were asked to report on their perceptions and feelings during a standardized round trip through old-fields representing different successional stages. Four dimensions of landscape experience were found: ‘tradition’, ‘nature conservation’, ‘profit’ and ‘emotion’. None of the interviewees could be assigned to one and only this dimension. Moreover, people's attitudes are usually composed of more than one dimension. Therefore, most people experience spontaneous reafforestation in an ambivalent way and prefer partially reafforested landscapes with a high diversity. Partial ingrowth of forest into an agricultural landscape is even assessed as an improvement of its visual quality. However, if the resulting forest patches become too big and homogeneous, a negative feedback can be expected. It can be concluded that — from the point of view of landscape aesthetics — agricultural policy should prevent old-field succession primarily in those cases where spontaneous reafforestation might result in vast homogeneous forest patches.
Landscape and Urban Planning – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 1995
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