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New Zealand Journal of Forestry (1997) 42(2): 21–29
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry

Research article
Managing forest aesthetics in production forests

A.J. Thorn , T.C. Daniel , B. Orland and N. Brabyn

Intensively managed forest plantations are important to the New Zealand economy. These same plantations are essential components affecting the scenic beauty of the New Zealand landscape, key contributors to the quality of outdoor recreation experiences and to a growing tourism industry. Effective projection and assessment of the visual aesthetic consequences of alternative forestry practices is essential to efficient and balanced management policies and to facilitate compliance with the Resource Management Act (1991).
Forest growth models, GIS spatial analyses and analytic visualisation techniques were combined to guide the development of data-driven, photo-realistic visualisations of alternative paired management scenarios within a panoramic scene. A perceptual survey, using an intercept interview procedure that allowed respondents simultaneously to view and compare the full sequence of forest conditions projected to occur over a 20-year period, was conducted with 501 respondents.
Results of the paired-comparison/point allocation between the visualised management alternatives indicate that respondents were in substantial agreement on the visual aesthetic quality depicted for

each view. Vertical versus contour planting schemes (simulating the reduction of hard visual elements in the landscape) produced small and inconsistent differences in ratings, while ratings of scenes showing visual buffers were consistently rated higher than the same scenes with no buffers. This response was repeated for residents and non-residents and for respondents indicating a high level of involvement in the forest industry versus those indicating membership in environmental groups. Non-residents indicated the greatest importance for plantation forestry to the visual quality of the landscape and frequently cited this as positively affecting visitors' enjoyment, while local residents rated plantation forestry as contributing little to the visual quality of the landscape.

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