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Nerida Anderson

Nerida Anderson

PhD student

Topic: Understanding the connection between the visual aesthetics of rural landscapes and the social acceptability of timber plantations.

University of Melbourne

Commercial scale timber plantations have the potential to provide a range of economic, social and environmental benefits at both the local and regional levels, as well as providing a range of benefits to the broader community. While many benefits can be attributed to timber plantations, plantations may also be perceived as having a range of negative social, economic and environmental impacts (Tonts, Campbell, & Black, 2001).

It has long been recognised that the success of resource policy is dependent on the policy being biologically possible, economically feasible, and culturally adoptable or socially acceptable (Firey 1960). Even where timber plantations may be biologically and economically feasible, the perception of adverse effects associated with timber plantations can influence support for plantations within the community.

Although there is debate about the extent to which landscapes are socially constructed and how much landscape perception depends on the physical attributes of the environment (Stedman 2003), rural landscapes can be viewed as symbolic environments having different meanings for different people (Greider & Garkovich, 1994).

The acceptability of plantations within the community can be considered with regard to the perceived impact plantations have on rural landscapes. The impact can be aesthetic or visual, involving features such as layout, colour, degree of visual interest, effect on view etc, but it can also be symbolic of social and economic change within the agricultural sector. This project will look at the way visual cues are used to interpret rural landscapes, and how commercial scale timber plantations fit within these visual landscapes.

Living in regional Victoria, I have long been interested in what motivates people to adopt land use practices that may or may not be environmentally sound or beneficial. Having recently obtained a Bachelor of Natural Resource Management with Honours at The University of Melbourne, in this PhD project I seek to understand the connection people have with rural landscapes and the way the visual appearance may influence the social acceptability of plantations. My supervisors for the project are Dr Kath Williams and Dr Rebecca Ford. This research is being conducted within the Communities 4.3 project as part of the CRC for Forestry’s Trees in the Landscape program.