How are landscapes under agroecological transition perceived and appreciated? A Belgian case study

Fanny Boeraeve, Marc Dufrêne, Nicolas Dendoncker, Amandine Dupire, Grégory Mahy

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An increasing number of agricultural transition initiatives are taking place, seeking more autonomy and resilience on the farms. This undeniably reshapes the landscape and the delivery of ecosystem services (ES). To date, little research includes the knowledge and perceptions of local communities on rural landscapes in agricultural transition. Yet, farmers shape the landscape and ES delivery, and local inhabitants are directly impacted. The present work aims at assessing the extent to which locals (local inhabitants and farmers) appreciate and view landscapes undergoing agricultural transitions. To do so, questionnaires were submitted to locals enquiring about appreciation and ES perceptions of transitioning landscapes. These landscapes were shown in manipulated photographs simulating an agroecological landscape, a conventional agriculture landscape, and landscapes including each isolated agroecological practice (resulting in six 'scenarios'). In order to put locals' perceptions in perspective, the same questionnaire was submitted to 'ES experts', and ES perceptions were compared to field-based ES measurements in agroecological and conventional parcels of the same study region. The results show that locals and ES experts appreciate and perceive these scenarios similarly. The agroecological scenario was seen as the most appreciated and the one delivering the most ES, while the conventional one was the least appreciated and seen as the one delivering the least ES. These perceptions of ES delivery partially correspond to the ES field measurements, which showed a similar productivity within agroecological and conventional parcels and more regulating ES in agroecological parcels. We discuss how our results call for the assessment of the multi-performance of agricultural systems in terms of ES rather than focusing on yield only, and how future research addressing agroecological transition should rely on integrated valuations and mixed methods to better embrace the complexity of such transitioning systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2480
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Consultation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Integrated valuation
  • Landscape
  • Mixed methods research
  • Perception
  • Stakeholders
  • Sustainable agriculture


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