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Linking ecology and aesthetics in sustainable agricultural landscapes: Lessons from the Palouse region of Washington, U.S.AAuthor(s): Linda R. Klein; William G. Hendrix; Virginia I. Lohr; Jolie B. Kaytes; Rodney D. Sayler; Mark E. Swanson; William J. Elliot; John P. Reganold
Source: Landscape and Urban Planning. 134: 195-209.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
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DescriptionInspired by international escalation in agricultural sustainability debates, we explored the promise of landscape-scale conservation buffers to mitigate environmental damage, improve ecological function, and enhance scenic quality. Although the ecological benefits of buffer vegetation are well established by plot- and field-scale research, buffer adoption by farmers is limited. Landscape-scale approaches can address several obstacles by simultaneously considering ecological impact, economic efficiency, and aesthetic quality and preference in buffer placement and design. Within four watersheds of Washington’s Palouse farming region, we examined relationships between ecological and aesthetic responses to the existing landscape structure plus three alternative scenarios, differentiated by successive increases in woody buffers. Methodology combined GIS analysis, digital image simulation, soil erosion modeling and mapping, and a landscape preference survey. Landscape ecological function, measured by erosion and deposition rates, improved as buffer elements were added into each successive scenario. Magnitude of improvements varied among scenarios and among watersheds, revealing opportunities for targeting buffers to maximize ecological benefits and economic efficiency. Concurrently, aesthetic preference, measured as scenic quality ratings, increased significantly (p < 0.05) from the existing landscape through the second successive scenario of improved ecological function. No preference difference was found between the second and third scenarios. Results expand current understanding of multifunctional relationships in agricultural landscapes and encourage future research on whether linking ecological and aesthetic quality in buffer design might favorably influence adoption. Results also suggest that, within certain landscape contexts, visually perceivable attributes can provide a relative and coincident indication of ecological function, aesthetic quality, and agricultural sustainability.
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CitationKlein, Linda R.; Hendrix, William G.; Lohr, Virginia I.; Kaytes, Jolie B.; Sayler, Rodney D.; Swanson, Mark E.; Elliot, William J.; Reganold, John P. 2015. Linking ecology and aesthetics in sustainable agricultural landscapes: Lessons from the Palouse region of Washington, U.S.A. Landscape and Urban Planning. 134: 195-209.
Keywordsagricultural landscape ecology, conservation buffer system, ecosystem services, GeoWEPP modeling, landscape preference, multifunctional landscapes
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