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Bioenergy and its effects on landscape aesthetics - A survey contrasting conventional and wild crop biomass production

The number of biogas plants in Germany that operate with renewable raw materials, especially maize, increased considerably between 1992 and 2016. The associated rise of areas farmed with maize has led to changes in the landscape. The present article investigates how these changes are perceived by chosen actor groups and whether wild plant mixtures as an alternative substrate are offering aesthetic value. In order to pursue this question, two independent surveys were conducted in the Münsterland area in North Rhine-Westphalia. We first used landscape photos in accordance with the Q methodology design; the second survey was part of the Regionale 2016 “GrünSchatz” project and used questionnaires and guideline-based interviews. The surveys reach the following conclusion: landscapes poor in structures and monotonous are assessed as less worth living in. Landscapes with only few maize fields were not assessed worse than landscapes without maize. Compared with that, landscapes dominated by maize fields were considered significantly worse. The evaluation shows a significantly better assessment of wild plant areas than maize areas regarding landscape aesthetics and are seen to improve the landscape. Due to the higher aesthetic value of wild plant mixtures, agriculturists also expect to improve the image of their profession. According to the two studies presented in this article, the attitude of exclusively considering the “tidiness” of the landscape, which had been prevalent in the past, seems to have given way to a more popular varied landscape.



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