Role of knowledge and cultural variations in public perception of riverscapes with and without woodReportar como inadecuado

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1 EVS - Environnement Ville Société

Abstract : During the First International Conference on Wood in World Rivers, held in Oregon U.S.A. in October 2000, participants indicated that strong regional contrasts appear in the appraisal of riverscape quality, particularly in the perception of woody debris WD deposited in the channels. Over the last three decades, there has been an increasing scientific interest in WD and researchers have recognised the hydraulic, geomorphic, and biological role of wood in temperate river systems. Although WD re-establishment has been promoted in different areas, such as in North America, Australia or Germany, such measures are not accepted by managers and users in other countries. To understand why some spatial variations in WD public perception exist in these environments, we have analysed the social, cultural, and historical context of the question. One of the aims, described in this contribution, was to evaluate the visual and emotional impact of riverscape on the motivation to improve stream and river. The survey is based on a questionnaire and a set of 20 photographs, which represent watercourses running through various physical and humanised environments. Half of the scenes are characterised by river sections obstructed by wood when the 10 others are free-flowing, without WD. To evaluate the overall scenic attractiveness of each picture, respondents rated four perceived values of the 20 colour photographs namely aesthetics, naturalness, danger, and need for improvement on Visual Analog Scales ranging from 0 to 10. The questionnaire included also two qualitative variables for characterizing the perception of the danger and the motivation for improving riverscape. The study was performed using the same protocol in eleven geographical areas France, Poland, Sweden, India, Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Oregon U.S., Texas U.S., which have been selected because they reflect a diversity of socio-cultural environments. With a low variability in age classes, the student community is a very interesting experimental population for international comparisons and the student responses were presumed to represent knowledge of non expert groups. Similar disciplines were surveyed in each of the areas concerned.The results show that the presence of in-channel WD modifies students- perceptions, affecting not only the beauty and the naturalness of scenes, but also the feeling of danger, and their motivation to improve them. The students characterized differently the risk and the improvement measures to be done whether the scene has wood or not. The comparative cultural analysis demonstrates some differences amongst the geographic areas, notably the specific behaviour of the Germans. Respondents were more concerned by what it is dangerous for the individual in his day to day life rather than by what it concerns the community. The underestimation of erosion and flooding risks associated with the wood underlines a lack of anticipation and the distinction between popular and technical knowledge. The relation with nature seem to vary according to the history of land uses, the intensity of river frequentation, or the leisure activities which are practiced along rivers. These elements are discussed as explaining factors of the geographic variability. Moreover, some universal archetypes which affect the valorisation of scenes, making clean water the vital fluid, the nurturer of life, and the pre-eminently pure element but the laying wood, the human death, an intolerable body polluting the maternal and divine element, are also analysed. Such results open discussions on how knowledge, socio-cultural environment, and public education must be considered for river restoration purposes.

Keywords : Woody debris river maintenance public perception risk riverscape

Autor: Yves-François Le Lay - Hervé Piégay -



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