Tessa HEGETSCHWEILER, Christoph FISCHER and Marcel HUNZIKER
Institution: Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL – Switzerland
Keywords: Monitoring Forest Recreation, National Forest Inventory, Online Survey, Forest Characteristics
Information about social aspects of forest such as aesthetic or recreational values is frequently collected with off-site questionnaire surveys. Several countries regularly conduct nation-wide surveys in order to monitor outdoor recreation and the relationship of the people to the forest. In these surveys, respondents often are asked to describe their last visit to a natural area or to describe the forest they visit most often. While this gives a representative picture of the respondents’ preferences and behaviour, it is not possible to link their answers to the real characteristics of the forest they are describing. On the other hand, characteristics such as tree species, stand structure, etc. are commonly recorded in National Forest Inventories (NFIs). Regarding forest recreation, both the physical characteristics of the forest in which recreation takes place as well as the social aspects such as visitor preferences and behaviour play an important role. In order to establish a link between socio-cultural forest monitoring and the Swiss NFI, we used photos from the NFI taken in all four cardinal directions from the centre of the NFI sample plots. The photos were integrated in an online survey dealing with visual attractiveness of forest, general forest preferences, motives for visiting forests and the importance of forest during the respondents’ childhood. Because the photos are not congruent with the sample plots, forest characteristics were derived from the photos according to NFI-criteria. Results show that visual attractiveness could be explained by a combination of several NFI-parameters and social factors. An evaluation of the method used to gain physical forest data from the photos revealed that apart from some exceptions most parameters studied could be deducted reliably from the photos. We conclude that this approach is a possibility to integrate forest characteristics into socio-cultural forest monitoring.