Spatially-explicit mapping of forest benefits and analysis of motivations for everyday-life's visitors on forest pathways in urban and rural contexts

Markus A. Meyer*, Joachim Rathmann, Christoph Schulz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Research on recreation in forests often aims at quantifying the recreational area, counting the numbers of visitors, or assessing the attractiveness of forest characteristics. The nature and spatial patterns of local recreation within a forest area are far harder to detect. Recreational behavior and perceived forest benefits (FB) such as fresh air or tranquility are weakly studied. We investigated local recreation in an urban and a rural forest in southern Germany during a summer and a winter survey. We mapped the visitors’ paths and asked them to rate FB and to name reasons for pathway choice. We analyzed visitors’ patterns of perceived FB and spatial behavior. Forest visitors concentrated their use along existing paths in limited parts of both forests. Most parts of the forest were used by multiple recreation groups, while specific groups (e.g., cyclists) dominated only small parts. Forest visitors gave high ratings to FB such as fresh air, experiencing nature, escaping everyday life, or health. Spatial clusters of similarly perceived FB were detectable but not fundamental in both forests. A regression analysis showed that FB ratings were significantly affected by visitor groups and insignificantly affected by forest characteristics or demographic factors. Pathway choice was dominantly driven by habit, spontaneity, or vicinity to the visitors’ homes and not attributable to specific forest characteristics. In sum, we found a weak connection between recreational behavior and demand for specific forest characteristics. For local recreation, we recommend to provide a basic level of highly rated FB and to avoid nuisances rather than designing forests for a desired appearance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-95
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape and urban planning
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecosystem service
  • Forest function
  • Forest management
  • Human benefit
  • Recreation
  • Visitor preferences


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