Knowledge Platform

Introduction: Cause-effect chains between landscape and regional competitiveness

The links between nature and its benefits for human society are characterised by various and complex feedbacks and loops.

Landscape and competitiveness
Figure 1. Adapted from van Zanten et al. 2014.

Agricultural landscapes are characterised by human interventions. These interventions are driven by the demand for certain goods and services from the landscape to the aim of creating personal and societal socio-economic benefits. Therefore an important role in the system is assigned to economic actors within the rural economy, who benefit directly or indirectly from the landscape and therefore express demand towards landscape services supply (e.g. agriculture or forestry, local inhabitants, the tourism sector, local industry or the trade and services sector).

Socio-economic benefits from agricultural landscapes result from the direct and the indirect use of both private and public good-type landscape services. The socio-economic benefits from agricultural landscapes support the rural economy and the quality of life in rural areas and can become a factor of regional development and economic and social competitiveness in terms of socio-economic benefits such as agricultural income, employment creation, population growth, etc.

An important aspect in the system in is the valuation of benefits. The values which are assigned to the benefits from service provision by the different beneficiaries assign are a strong driver for the demand for landscape services. The creation of valuable socio-economic benefits has feedbacks on the demand side and, consequently, also feedbacks on the supply side.

Also the contribution of benefits and values to regional competitiveness has feedback and loop effects on the demand and supply of landscape services, and therefore on the management of the landscape.

Empirical Case Study Evidence

The results of a horizontal expert panel exercise across the 9 rural case study areas of the CLAIM project contribute to the disentanglement of the complex causal relations between agricultural landscapes and the competitiveness of rural regions. Carried out in form of an Analytical Network Process (ANP), the exercise confirms the influence of different actors of a rural economy on private as well as public good type services in an agricultural landscape and the contribution of direct and indirect benefits and values for humans from the use of use these services to social and economic competitiveness. The exercise clearly shows that the „classical“, agricultural system is perceived to play the most important role in the system (agriculture → food → jobs and investment → economic competitiveness). However, the results also show that public goods play a role and that the perception of public goods is clearly driven by regional specificities.

The cause‐effect chains from landscape to the local economy, through the relationship among specific landscape elements to service suppliers and consumers are also confirmed by two Bayesian Belief Network studies in Italy and Poland in line with CLAIM. The studies show that the interactions between landscape elements, landscape service supply and the potential contribution of second‐order services to the local economy, through different socio-economic benefits are complex. Often the way from landscape services supply to benefits and competitiveness is not straightforward but multi-tracked. So does in the Italian case the wetlands cover support number of jobs and value added via the cause effect chain (landscape attractivenessagritourismseats for eating increase of jobs and the added value of farms). This cause effect chain is additionally affected by e.g. residents’ perception of landscape attractiveness which influences seats for eating because of residents’ frequency of visiting agri-tourisms. In the Polish case competitiveness is influenced by three cause effect chains, namely (landscape elementsprotection agricultural yield), (landscape elements landscape aesthetics  tourism  employment) and (landscape elements habitats tourism  employment). Both studies reveal that landscape and landscape services have a positive influence on economic regional competitiveness via through the creation of employment and value added. Especially the Italian case study shows the importance of the values different beneficiaries assign to the services provided in a landscape for generating socio-economic benefits.

Actors and beneficiaries of agricultural landscapes

The beneficiaries of agricultural landscapes have been analysed in a variety of CLAIM studies. Many of them indicate, that mainly such sectors of the local economy, which are directly managing landscape or which are closely connected to the production of marketable goods in agricultural landscapes (agriculture and forestry, wood-processing industry and food industry), or which directly enjoy cultural services from landscapes (inhabitants and tourists) derive benefits from agricultural landscapes (ANP, IT1, IT2, AT3,). Other economic sectors, which receive rather indirect and second order effects from landscape and landscape services, such as the trade & commerce or the services sector, are perceived to benefit remarkably less.

The results of a Social Network Analysis in Austria show, that manifold agents/institutions pursue in parts common, in parts overlapping and in parts different strategies of generating value from the regional agricultural landscapes. The most important strategies of influencing regional competitiveness via landscape valorisation strategies are agricultural production, tourism and the marketing of regional products. However, here the analysis gives hint at important interruptions in potential valorisation chains.

Landscape and competitiveness

Despite the obvious role and influence of public good-type landscape services in the system between landscape and regional competitiveness, the results of two CLAIM case studies in Austria show, that the influence of solely landscape is not high. A data envelopment analysis in the Austrian case study region shows, that regional competitiveness is rather influenced by non-landscape factors such as the closeness to urban centres or semi-urban areas. It shows that the more remote an area, the less competitive it is, even if the landscape is beautiful and rich of potential landscape services – except if landscape is profoundly valorised by intensive tourism – on cost of cultural identity and authenticity. The Austrian expert survey shows, that landscape is valued mainly for its cultural, “soft” factors and highly appreciated. Nevertheless “economic” impacts of landscape are evaluated to be low (labour market, demography, investments).

Conclusions & recommendations

  • Agricultural landscapes and the landscape services provided are drivers of regional competitiveness.
  • Not only private but also public good-type landscape services drive regional competitiveness.
  • There is a higher consciousness towards consumptive and marketable goods provided by a certain environment, than towards essential, but hardly discernible, benefits from the use of public good-type services.
  • The cause-effect chains between landscape and competitiveness are often complex and region specific.
  • European governance strategies with regard to public good provision have to be context- specific and have to consider regional conditions.
  • More efficient and continuous communication strategy between scientists, decision makers, local administrations and civil society might reduce a knowledge distance and make population aware of the public heritage provided by the landscapes they are surrounded by.
  • The ANP exercise indicates that the weight of different valorisation pathways can hint at priority areas for local policy design, particularly in connecting landscape-related and chain-related measures of the Rural Development Programmes.

Further reading

Van Zanten, B.T., Verburg, P.H., Espinosa, M., Gomez-y-Paloma, S., Galimberti, G., Kantelhardt, J., Martin Kapfer, M., Lefebvre, M., Manrique, R., Piorr, A., Raggi, M., Schaller, L., Targetti, S., Zasada, I., Viaggi, D. (2014). European agricultural landscapes, common agricultural policy and ecosystem services: a review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 34(2): 309-325.