By Jarren Verbeek (the Netherlands)
Agriculture has been a major influence on rural landscape aesthetics in the past. However, currently many agricultural developments put pressure on the aesthetic landscape quality. It is difficult to predict future changes in land use and agriculture, which means the future of landscape aesthetics is uncertain. The future is made even more uncertain by human perception, as changes in the landscape are difficult to assess. How landscape aesthetics will change and how people perceive these changes make the future of rural landscape aesthetics uncertain. This research describes a method that can be used to assess human perception of changes in the landscape. Landscape quality indicators were chosen to represent aesthetic quality. These indicators are: Complexity, Naturalness, Scale and Disturbance. Two study areas have been chosen and past changes in the landscape quality indicators were mapped and quantified. Based on these changes, five future scenarios were made and visualised. The aesthetic attractiveness of these scenarios was tested using in-situ surveys. The results show that a decline in the landscape quality indicators is also perceived as a loss of aesthetic landscape quality. The sensitivity of rural landscape aesthetics was tested using past changes in the indicators and the survey results. The quicker the landscape indicators change and the faster the perception changes, the more sensitive the aesthetics of a landscape are. From the research, it becomes clear that Culture and Naturalness play an important role in the quality of a landscape. As different groups may have varying opinions it is important to distinguish between groups when assessing a landscape. The method in this research can be used to anticipate unwanted changes in a landscape or be used to write policies about landscape aesthetics and land use changes.