Making sense of landscape change:long-term perceptions among local residents following river restoration

Westling, Emma and Surridge, Ben and Sharp, Liz and Lerner, David (2014) Making sense of landscape change:long-term perceptions among local residents following river restoration. Journal of Hydrology, 519 (Part C). pp. 2613-2623. ISSN 0022-1694

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Efforts to restore rivers are increasingly concerned with the social implications of landscape change. However, the fundamental issue of how people make sense of local riverine environments in the context of restoration remains poorly understood. Our research examined influences on perception among local residents 14 years after a restoration scheme on the River Dearne in the north of England. Human-landscape relationships emerging from semi-structured interviews with 16 local residents were analysed using an interpretive research framework. Nine recurring factors influenced perception among local residents: scenic beauty; the condition of riparian vegetation and of river channel morphology; opportunities to observe flora and fauna; cleanliness of the riverine environment; access available to the river; connections between the river and the surrounding landscape; disturbance and change in the familiarity of the landscape following restoration. These factors were not solely related to tangible outcomes of the restoration scheme, but were also influenced by history, memories, traditions and practices associated with the river. Critically, these factors also interacted rather than operating in isolation and two idealised perceptual frameworks were developed to map these interactions. Our research contributes to theoretical understanding of the relationships between humans and landscape change, whilst also considering how restoration practice may better reflect these relationships. The importance of a social dimension to the template of possibilities for restoring any given river emerges, underpinning place-based design and implementation of river restoration schemes.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Hydrology
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18 Jun 2015 05:40
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 01:43