On the relation between landscape beauty and land cover : A case study in the U.K. at Sentinel-2 resolution with interpretable AI

Levering, Alex; Marcos, Diego; Tuia, Devis


The environment where we live and recreate can have a significant effect on our well-being. More beautiful landscapes have considerable benefits to both health and quality of life. When we chose where to live or our next holiday destination, we do so according to some perception of the environment around us. In a way, we value nature and assign an ecosystem service to it. Landscape aesthetics, or scenicness, is one such service, which we consider in this paper as a collective perceived quality. We present a deep learning model called ScenicNet for the large-scale inventorisation of landscape scenicness from satellite imagery. We model scenicness with an interpretable deep learning model and learn a landscape beauty estimator based on crowdsourced scores derived from more than two hundred thousand landscape images in the United Kingdom. Our ScenicNet model learns the relationship between land cover types and scenicness by using land cover prediction as an interpretable intermediate task to scenicness regression. It predicts landscape scenicness and land cover from the Corine Land Cover product concurrently, without compromising the accuracy of either task. In addition, our proposed model is interpretable in the sense that it learns to express preferences for certain types of land covers in a manner that is easily understandable by an end-user. Our semantic bottleneck also allows us to further our understanding of crowd preferences for landscape aesthetics.