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Assessing landscape experiences as a cultural ecosystem service in public infrastructure projects

From concept to practice

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Undesirable landscape changes, especially from large infrastructure projects, may give rise to large welfare losses due to degraded landscape experiences. These losses are largely unaccounted for in Nordic countries’ planning processes. There is a need to develop practical methods of including people’s preferences and the value of landscape impacts in policy assessments and decision-making. The project aims to explore how the ecosystem service approach and values of landscape experiences can be better incorporated in actual cases. The project developed a two-step approach to assess, value and incorporate landscape impacts and tested these in case studies based on EIA documentation. We found that despite the lack of information generated in the EIAs, the step-wise method significantly improved upon evidence and conclusions of how people are impacted due to landscape changes.

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Executive Summary

Phase 1 of this project documented that environmental impact assessments (EIA), cost-benefit analyses (CBA) and spatial planning at sector, project and more strategic (higher) levels are often carried out without quantification of landscape impacts or assessment of the value of such impacts for human welfare (NCM 2015). Several indicators and methods have been developed to quantify and value landscape change and resulting ecosystem service (ES) loss in monetary or non-monetary terms, based on people’s preferences stated in surveys or revealed in market behaviour. NCM (2015) surveyed these studies and various statistics in the Nordic context and found that undesirable landscape changes, especially from large public infrastructure projects, may give rise to potentially significant welfare losses related to degraded landscape experiences. These losses are currently largely unaccounted for in all Nordic countries’ planning processes (NCM 2015).

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