Landscape Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 375–389

From Hiking Through Farmland to Farming in a Leisure Landscape: Changing Social Perceptions of the European Landscape

Research Article


The idea that landscape has been created by human activities on a biophysical basis allows for clear cause–effect reasoning. However, landscape planning and management practice learns that it is impossible to neglect the social perception of landscape, i.e. the ways people think about nature and landscape. It is the result of social research and human sciences of the last decade that a differentiation in views of nature and landscape can be identified in the different groups of social actors in the landscape. Case studies from France and the Netherlands show a marked change in values attributed to nature and landscape in the end of the last century. Social demand for landscape is growing and a shift from a functional image of nature and landscape to a more hedonistic image like the Arcadian and wilderness images has taken place. Comparing the Netherlands with France and rural with urban inhabitants, the influence of urbanisation is evident in this process. It is further shown that images of nature vary considerably between for example farmers, urban residents, hunters and conservationists. The way people perceive landscape seems determined by their functional ties with the landscape and the social praxis in which they encounter the landscape. It is concluded that the concept of landscape is nearer to the lifeworld of people than the abstract notions of nature and biodiversity. This implies a big challenge both for national and international landscape policies and for local landscape management initiatives to be developed, taking into due consideration both the material and immaterial nature of landscape.


Culture Europe France Landscape Nature Landscape preference Perception Spatial planning The Netherlands Views of nature 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Landscape CentreAlterra Green World ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Université de Paris I, LADYSSParisFrance

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