Is an attractive forest also considered well-managed? Public preferences for forest cover and stand structure across a rural/urban gradient in northern Portugal

Sónia Maria Carvalho-Ribeiro, Andrew Lovett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


There is an extensive body of empirical research focusing on public preferences for forest landscapes. However, it is also recognised that visually appealing landscapes may not be ecologically healthy and these differences may cause tensions as indirect ecosystem services become an increasingly important focus for forest management. This study used a questionnaire survey to investigate the extent to which public preferences for characteristics such as forest cover and stand structure varied when framed in terms of attractiveness or good management objectives. The research took place in northern Portugal and also examined the implications of using verbal prompts or visual stimuli (e.g. photographs) as means of eliciting preferences. Key results from the study were: 1) public preferences regarding forest cover and stand structure do not, in general, differ under attractiveness and management criteria, 2) there were statistically significant differences in preferences for forest cover and stand structure amongst user groups 3) because ground cover vegetation was not regarded as attractive or good then strategies for future whole catchment management may face some tension, and 4) there were some inconsistencies identified in the preferences derived from verbal prompts and visual stimuli. By contrasting preferences for attractiveness and management criteria the research presents a simple quantitative approach that provides a basis for interventions through design or knowledge exchange to help align aesthetic and ecological goals. However, it also suggests that research approaches able to provide a deeper engagement with the public regarding the indirect ecosystem services from forests via qualitative approaches such as focus groups and incentive mechanisms are likely to be important.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-54
Number of pages9
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Issue number1
Early online date22 Oct 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

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