“Do differences in visual landscape preferences for EAB-impacted forest scenarios exist between forest visitors asked in EAB-impacted and EAB non-impacted cities?”
This is one of the essential survey questions posed to visitors of urban forests in Minneapolis, MN, and Vienna, Austria, where ash trees have been a significant part of the landscape. The big difference, however, is that Minneapolis has lost a large chunk of its ash population, while Vienna has not been impacted by EAB yet, but is expected to be threatened in the years to come.
The results of the survey are reported in a newly released study by Oxford Academic, “Differences in urban forest visitor preferences for emerald ash borer-impacted areas.”
In the words of the The study’s authors: “As of 2019, there has been little research on the social impacts of tree health, although there seems to be societal concern about the impacts of tree pests like EAB. However, reported awareness about the presence of specific tree pests and forest management options is generally low (Marzano et al., 2017). Particularly in Europe, little is known about how EAB impacts might influence forest visitors’ site preferences, whether preferences differ among visitors, and whether visitor socio-demographic, recreational activities or their relationship with nature can explain this potential heterogeneity. As EAB infestation is already significant in many parts of both the United States and Russia, and imminent in Europe, knowledge about visitor preference heterogeneity is necessary for proactive and effective forest management. This need is particularly important for urban forest managers and planners as ash is a central component of European urban green infrastructure. If respondents’ preferences are homogeneous, it is easier to obtain agreement on forest management, but if there are segments with conflicting preferences, management becomes more challenging and requires additional efforts toward agreement and information about choices. Thus, the question arises as to how visitor preferences differ regarding changes in the forest landscape associated with EAB impacts and concomitant forest management, if and how visitor segments differ n their support for forest management actions, and what trade-offs among several factors (social, visual, managerial) exist.”
- The majority of respondents in Vienna had never heard about EAB (85.1%). About 13% of respondents had heard about EAB but had no knowledge about it while 2.4% said they had some knowledge of EAB and none of the respondents indicated they knew a lot about it.
- Vienna respondents preferred a non-impacted mature ash forest, advanced stages of natural regeneration, dense trailside shrub vegetation and low trail user numbers. Relatedly, respondents disliked removal of most ash trees, viewscapes showing city buildings close to the trail, unleashed dogs and a visitor composition consisting of walkers only.
- The higher relative importance of the EAB impacts and management attribute for Minneapolis respondents may be related to their higher awareness of the existing EAB risk for the ash trees. Seven years before this study, EAB was detected in the City of Minneapolis and in 2014, active EAB management was in full force with tree marking and removal.