Emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive forest insect from Asia, has impacted vast areas in the United States and European Russia. To proactively understand the social impact of an EAB invasion in Europe and the USA, this study analyzed visitors' preferences and preference heterogeneity for EAB-impacted forest scenarios in Vienna, Austria (n = 510) and Minneapolis, USA (n = 307). An image-based discrete choice experiment with latent-class analysis among on-site completed questionnaires in Vienna indicated four different visitor segments based on trade-offs among biophysical, social and viewscape elements. Within the forested environment, two segments placed greater importance on (bio)physical attributes and two on social aspects. Although all segments preferred a non-impacted ash forest, only one of the four identified the attribute describing EAB impacts and forest management as the most important attribute. Rather, visitor numbers and background viewscapes were more important than EAB impact and management to differentiate landscape preferences for three of the four segments. Differences in preferences were found between the Vienna and Minneapolis samples. Vienna respondents showed a higher preference for more natural conditions, disliked more the initial stage of EAB impact and placed more importance on background viewscapes and visitor numbers. Forest managers and greenspace planners need to consider the entirety of the forested condition, social and visual, for effective management and address that visitors differ in their preferences for all of these conditions.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
In-kind support from the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station is acknowledged. Thanks also to the forest and garden departments of the City of Vienna for permission to survey area visitors. We thank Martin Ebenberger, Sarah Böhm, Wolfgang Karnutsch, Kathrin Rainer and Lea Lorscheider for their assistance in developing the visual scenarios or collecting data.
The study was partially supported by the USDA Forest Service [14-JV-11242309-049].