How do biodiversity and conservation values relate to landscape preferences? A case study from the Swiss Alps
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The importance of the values underlying different concepts of biodiversity conservation and landscape planning is increasingly recognised, and yet these value judgements of the public and of experts are still poorly understood. Although landscape and conservation management are closely interrelated and measures in one field are likely to have effects on the other, the relationship between biodiversity and conservation values on the one hand, and landscape preferences on the other hand, has been hardly explored so far. This study represents a first attempt to empirically examine this relationship from an integrated perspective, considering philosophical, ecological and economic aspects and using items focused on biodiversity. We used a quantitative survey of the general Swiss population with visualisations of potential landscape developments in the Swiss Alps and items related to biodiversity- and conservation-values. Our research shows that respondents who prefer reforested landscapes tend to be more concerned about the conservation of species, landscapes, and natural processes than people preferring cultural landscapes. Respondents who prefer cultural landscapes are more oriented towards utilitarian values and are overrepresented in mountain areas as compared to the lowlands, thus in areas that are more likely to become the target of conservation measures. Our findings have practical implications for conservation in Switzerland and other mountainous areas, particularly in times of agricultural decline and land abandonment and their associated changes in landscape and biodiversity.