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Ecological and aesthetic values in urban forest management

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In the planning processes of urban forests there are frequent conflicting opinions about the extent to which forests should be managed. On the one hand, management is needed to deal with the intensive use of forests, as well as unfavourable growing conditions, security factors and aesthetic variables. On the other hand, there is an increasing demand for unmanaged areas which is based primarily on ecological arguments. This paper presents research that was conducted in connection with the participatory planning process of Helsinki City forests. The main aim of this research was to study whether aesthetic and ecological values can be combined in the management of urban forests. Furthermore, the stability of forest landscape preferences during the participatory planning process was studied, along with the representativeness of planning groups compared to larger user groups. The data was collected in planning group meetings and public hearings in Helsinki during 1998–2000. Respondents evaluated a set of photographs designed to cover the main conflict situations in urban forest management: Thinnings, understorey management, the leaving of dead snags and decaying ground-wood.

These results show that the majority of residents in Helsinki prefer managed forests. The preferences are, however, closely connected to the background characteristics of respondents. Younger residents with a higher education and active urban forest users prefer more ecologically-oriented management when compared to older residents with less education, or less active users. The individuals had a rather clear and relatively stable opinion of what constitutes suitable management in urban forests, but the views differed considerably as a whole. This means that a participatory planning process will typically lead to some type of compromise. Moreover, the planning groups in Helsinki reflected the opinions of the larger user groups rather well. This indicates that the currently used participatory planning approach sufficiently integrates public values into its planning process.
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Keywords: aesthetics; ecology; landscape preferences; participatory planning; urban forestry; visualisation

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Helsinki, Department of Forest Ecology, Helsinki, Finland 2: University of Joensuu, Faculty of Forestry, Joensuu, Finland 3: University of Joensuu, Department of Statistics, Joensuu, Finland

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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