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Cultural landscapes of the future: using agent-based modeling to discuss and develop the use and management of the cultural landscape of South West Devon

Landscape Ecology


Hedgerows are typical landscape features of high environmental and cultural value that often have been sacrificed for agricultural intensification and scale enlargement. We studied the dynamics of hedgerow quality over time in a case study area renowned for its hedgerow landscapes: South West Devon (UK) answering the following research questions: (1) how does the imperative of scale enlargement affect hedgerow quality? and (2) to what extent can cultural landscape degradation be countered by targeted policies? We applied an agent-based modeling approach, parameterized with a site specific survey, to explore and discuss outcomes of future landscape change with stakeholders and co-designed preferred scenarios of landscape change during a workshop. Outcomes suggested that in the case-study area, scale enlargement has a negative effect on hedgerow quality when agri-environment scheme subsidies (AES) are low. In contrast, if the level of AES enrollment is high, scale enlargement can have a positive effect on hedgerow quality, as large holders are more likely to enroll for AES. Stakeholders acknowledged the need for agricultural intensification, but at the same time valued biodiversity and environmental value of the landscape in South West Devon. Current AES are able to retain a decent hedgerow quality. With lower AES, scale enlargement can have an invigorative effect on hedgerow quality as land managers of larger farms will be less likely to join AES As an addition to AES, harvesting wood fuel from coppiced hedgerows appears a promising way to incentivize rejuvenating hedgerow management without governmental subsidies.

Author(s): Tieskens, KF; Shaw, BJ; Haer, T; Schulp, CJE; Verburg, PH

Journal: Landscape Ecology

Year: 2017


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