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Attitudes of the society towards wilderness


A new social research project located at WSL's Section Landscape and Society is focussing on the populations attitudes towards nature and wilderness and their influence on the acceptance of different types of wild lands and on wildland management.


Research questions

  • What are the global attitudes towards nature and wilderness?
  • What is perceived as wilderness and what degree of wilderness is accepted by the population in general?
  • What are the differences between the ecological definition of wilderness and the lay conception?
  • What are the consequences of these differences if there are any?
  • What are the differences between people accepting wilderness and those objecting it?

Methodological approach

Combination of several research strategies and disciplines:

  1. Research of popular representation of nature and the wild in literature and media with analysis of literary positions in relation to wilderness (1700 to 2000) and printmedia analysis of newspaper articles related to wilderness (1988 to 2000).
  2. empirical studies
    1. Qualitative interviews in different wilderness areas and lay assessment of natural scenes (isolation of the criteria underlying these evaluations)
    2. Web-tool (based on the results from 1. and 2a)
    3. Representative questionnaire (including evaluation of landscape simulations; based on the results from 1., 2a and 2b)

The combination of all these data will provide information about strategies suitable to foster acceptance of wilderness and to improve and facilitate the management of wild lands.


Project leader and Realisation of the project:
Dr. Nicole Bauer
Co-operation: PD Dr. H.-J. Mosler


Bristol foundation