Out of the wild : studies on the forest as a recreational resource for urban residents

Abstract: This thesis explores and analyzes the demand for and supply of forests in and near urban areas from a social perspective. Specific focus is directed towards recreational qualities of forests located just outside urban borders, that is, urban fringe forests. To this end, the thesis is based on four empirical research papers. Papers I and II explore the demand component, while Paper III focuses on the supply component. Finally, Paper IV integrates issues of both demand and supply. In Paper I, a survey directed to the general public in urban areas is used to address differences between public attitudes to the forest in general and to the urban fringe forest more specifically. Paper II builds upon interviews with municipal planners with responsibility for green space issues in nine Swedish cities. In Paper III, spatial forest data is analyzed in a GIS to examine how urbanization and population developments influence the supply of urban fringe forests over time. Spatial analysis is further used in Paper IV to quantify forest attractiveness and accessibility in a single measure of urban fringe forest demand and supply.In Paper I it is shown that urban residents associate the urban fringe forest with a variety of design characteristics, as people’s opinions do not solely concern social qualities but also ecological and functional qualities. It is concluded that the overall influence of socioeconomic and demographic attributes is modest in comparison to the basic values and beliefs people hold about life, the environment, and the forest in general. In Paper II it is demonstrated that it is imperative for municipalities to own forest, since this allows them to secure sufficient provisions of recreational forests for future residents and from urban land developments. However, as private citizens do generally not take part of local planning and management decision-making there is an obvious risk for decisions biased towards the interests of social organizations, with specific activity and structural demands that do not necessarily reflect the interests of the general public. From Paper III it is evident that urbanization and population developments do not necessarily lead to a reduced supply of urban fringe forests over time; forest management practices are equally important to consider with regards to people’s opportunities to visit attractive forests for recreation. Finally, in Paper IV it is shown that more attractive forests are generally less accessible to urban residents, regardless of mode of transportation, and that the accessibility to urban fringe forests is generally lower in more deprived neighborhoods.