Change from agricultural to touristic use: Effects on the aesthetic value of landscapes over the last 150 years
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SubjectCultural ecosystem services; Accessibility; Land use change; Spatial modelling; Social media
The demand for cultural ecosystem services (CES) is increasing, and aesthetic values contribute substantially to attract visitors to mountain regions, enhancing the socio-economic well-being. While most studies focused on the assessment of aesthetic values under current conditions, this study aimed to evaluate the historic development of aesthetic values from the perspective of today by analysing changes in the actual supply of this CES along roads and paths in Sölden in the Ötztal valley (Austria) since the beginning of tourism. We first mapped roads and paths for five time steps over the last 150 years to then estimate aesthetic values along these infrastructures, using a spatially explicit modelling approach. Furthermore, we compared spatial patterns of visitation preferences derived from social media data with predicted aesthetic values. Our results indicate that an increased access to areas of high aesthetic values was related to general increases in the supply of aesthetic values until 1950. Although the accessibility to high-elevation areas continued to increase until 2017, aesthetic values generally decreased due to landscape changes induced by the shift from mainly agricultural to touristic use. The abandonment of alpine pastures occurred mainly above the forest belt, which coincides with high levels of photo density, as most pictures were taken around mountain huts and on mountain peaks. If carefully planned and managed, mountain regions may actively enhance aesthetic experiences and foster the touristic use by providing good infrastructure, but land use policies and landscape management should support agricultural activities to maintain high levels of aesthetic values.
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