Land abandonment is an important process for the European Union, which primarily occurs in less productive, remote and mountainous areas with unfavourable conditions for agriculture. Future management directions of these abandonment areas are under debate, with increasing calls to adjust policies to the local characteristics, including the promotion of rewilding and the management of succession of larger areas of less-productive land. While there is an increase in studies focusing on the environmental impacts of land abandonment, there are few studies that focus on the perceptions of abandonment by different user groups, even though an understanding of local perceptions, opportunities and trade-offs associated with changing land management is crucial for landscape-related policies and planning measures. In a case study in Northern Portugal, we used a combination of statements, photograph rating exercises and open questions to assess the perceptions of local inhabitants, visitors and experts regarding land abandonment and their preferences of different possible trajectories after abandonment. The results show that all user groups have a negative response towards abandonment and associate it mainly with negative emotions and the loss of heritage and traditions. The assessment of the different abandonment stages and outcomes clearly yielded different preferences and explanations, which can be used as input for finding a common ground for landscape management, reducing conflict and as a starting point for a more spatially targeted and nuanced management approach.
van der Zanden , E. H., Carvalho-Ribeiro, S. M., & Verburg, P. H. (2018). Abandonment landscapes: user attitudes, alternative futures and land management in Castro Laboreiro, Portugal. Regional Environmental Change, 18(5), 1509-1520. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-018-1294-x