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Naturally dead and downed wood in Norwegian boreal forests: public preferences and the effect of information

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Abstract:

This study investigated public aesthetic preferences regarding naturally occurring dead and downed wood in Norwegian boreal forests. In an Internet-based survey conducted in cooperation with a commercial polling company, 1082 respondents from south-eastern and middle Norway were asked to rate 24 photos of forest settings. All photos had been taken at a stand level in primary or lightly altered semi-natural forests, although this was not disclosed to the respondents. Survey participants showed a clearly greater preference for images of forests settings containing little or no visible dead or downed wood. Participants also rated photos of forest settings with the dead wood elements removed through digital manipulation substantially higher than otherwise identical non-manipulated photos. However, public aesthetic perception of dead wood in forest setting did appear to be influenced by their understanding of the ecological benefits dead wood provides to forest biodiversity. Photos shown with an accompanying text describing the ecology or natural history of forest scenes containing dead wood received significantly higher ratings than identical photos without accompanying text. Our results suggest that those involved in maintaining or increasing forest biodiversity by retaining standing and fallen dead wood also need to incorporate outreach efforts that educate the public about the ecological benefits of these forest elements.

Keywords: aesthetics; conservation; dead wood; forest ecology; primary forests; recreation; scenic values

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02827581.2010.536567

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Fakkelgården, Lillehammer, Norway 2: Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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