Predicting the Effects of Gypsy Moth on Near-View Aesthetic Preferences and Recreation Appeal

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Abstract:

Using the Scenic Beauty Estimation (SBE) approach, near-view color photographs were taken of 25 forested Central Appalachian Plateau sites exhibiting gypsy moth induced tree mortality from 6% (uninfested control site) to 98%. The slides were randomly arranged and presented to 400 subjects who rated the slides on a 10-point preference scale. Attitudes concerning forest management did not influence visual quality, while knowledge of the presence of gypsy moth damage had a negative effect. No differences were found between ratings of visual quality and recreation appeal. The final regression model explained 68% of the variance in visual quality. Tree mortality was an outstanding predictor, with linear and quadratic functions of tree mortality best describing the variability in ratings. Flowering mountain laurel and stand age also contributed significantly to the model. Scenic preferences and appeal for visitation increased initially as mortality approached 30-40%. Up to this point, increased sunlight, visual penetration, and flowering understory growth may have mitigated the negative effects of mortality. As mortality exceeded this level, ratings dropped sharply. We conclude that from the standpoint of near-view aesthetics or recreation value, gypsy moth suppression may only be necessary in stands where tree mortality is expected to be unusually high. FOR. SCI. 39(1):28-40.

Keywords: Scenic beauty estimation; insect damage; recreation value; regression modeling; understory effects

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Research Forester, USDA Forest Service Northeastern Forest Experiment Station

Publication date: February 1, 1993

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