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Variations in cross-cultural perception of riverscapes in relation to in-channel wood

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Human perception of riverscapes with and without large wood (LW) has been investigated with a photo-questionnaire submitted to 2250 students in ten countries, capturing reactions to 20 pictures in terms of naturalness, danger, aesthetics and need for improvement. Principal component analysis performed on average scores per country per item showed that the primary discriminating factors are human modification, turbulence and extent of water shown in the scenes. Wood discriminated the perception of student groups, but other factors are also critical. Features associated with human activity (channel deepening and straightening, rip-rapping) were perceived to be less aesthetically pleasing than wood. Perception of the most dangerous riverscapes is not specifically affected by wood, but by turbulent flows and wide rivers. The presence of wood clearly discriminated the need for human intervention. Perceptions differed among countries, reflecting different cultural contexts. Students from Germany, Sweden and Oregon perceived LW more positively as a natural and wild component of watercourses. These perceptions are linked to positive attitudes towards natural riverscapes. Other students, such as those from China, Russia or India, perceived rivers with wood as needing regulation and maintenance. Whatever the socio-cultural context, large wood elicits an emotional influence on how one perceives riverscapes.

Keywords: channel improvement; cross-cultural comparison; in-channel wood; large woody debris; naturalness; public perception; riverscape evaluation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Lyon, UMR-5600 CNRS, site ENS-lsh, 69007 Lyon, France, Email: 2: Department of Geography, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK 3: Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, USA 4: UMR 5023 CNRS, Ecology of Fluvial Hydrosystems, Lyon, France 5: Laboratory of Ecology, Faculty of Sciences, University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain 6: Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus, Germany 7: Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, Poland 8: Institute of Geography, Pedagogical University, Kraków, Poland

Publication date: 2008-04-01

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