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Exploring Futures of Ecosystem Services in Cultural Landscapes through Participatory Scenario Development in the Swabian Alb, Germany

Tobias Plieninger, Ecosystem Services Research Group, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen
Claudia Bieling, Chair for Landscape Management, University of Freiburg
Bettina Ohnesorge, Ecosystem Services Research Group, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Harald Schaich, Chair for Landscape Management, University of Freiburg
Christian Schleyer, Ecosystem Services Research Group, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Department of Environmental Politics, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Franziska Wolff, Öko-Institut e.V.


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Cultural landscapes are appreciated for the plethora of ecosystem services that they provide to society. They are, however, subject to rapid and fundamental transformations across Europe, mainly as a result of intensification or abandonment of land uses. Our objective is to assess the possible future drivers of cultural landscape changes and their likely impacts on ecosystem services provision as perceived by local actors. We present stakeholder-based scenarios for the Swabian Alb, a biosphere reserve in southern Germany, projected to the yr 2040. On their basis, we explore the possibilities and limitations of local civil engagement for landscape conservation and development in the face of increasing global influences. The steps of the process are (a) identifying the key driving forces of landscape change, (b) developing contrasting narratives about alternative landscape futures, (c) refining the narratives, (d) discussing scenario impacts, and (e) exploring local management strategies. Four contrasting scenarios created by the stakeholders are presented. Global-level drivers are state support/regulations vs. free-market economy, and energy-intensive lifestyles vs. low-energy economy. Local-level forces are high vs. low consumer demand for localized food, and high vs. low appreciation of local cultural landscapes. Outcomes show that cultural landscape development may come to a crossroads over the next 30 yrs, with either combined land abandonment and landscape industrialization scenarios or multifunctional, locally distinct landscape futures being possible. The scenario narratives envision that the most powerful way to develop and protect distinct landscapes is to foster local people's links to cultural landscapes, to build social capital around them, and to direct consumption patterns toward localized food production. We find that participatory scenario processes have strengths in terms of the
credibility, transferability, and confirmability of the insights gained, but are often weak in ensuring dependability.

Key words

ecosystem services: landscape development ; participatory scenario planning; Germany; multifunctional landscapes; regional development; quality of life; rural areas

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087