Human–nature connectedness and other relational values are negatively affected by landscape simplification: insights from Lower Saxony, Germany

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Landscape simplification is a worldwide phenomenon that impacts biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Humans benefit greatly from nature’s contributions to people in both material and immaterial ways, yet landscape simplification can undermine these contributions. Landscape simplification can have negative consequences, for example, for human–nature connectedness and other relational values. Major and rapid land-use change, together with a declining appreciation of nature by individuals and societies, in turn, could cause a downward spiral of disconnections. Our empirical research combined a comprehensive assessment of five dimensions of human–nature connectedness with the lens of relational values to assess how these are influenced by landscape simplification. Focusing on two rural landscapes with differing agricultural development in Lower Saxony (Germany), we conducted 34 problem-centred interviews. We found that landscape simplification, especially if rapid, negatively influenced human–nature connectedness and particular relational values such as social relations, social cohesion or cultural identity. We postulate that human–nature connectedness might have a balancing influence on preserving relational values, buffering negative impacts of landscape simplification. Losing connections to nature could potentially foster conflicts among actors with different values. We conclude that combining the notions of human–nature connectedness and relational values can generate valuable insights and may help to uncover new ways to foster sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)865-877
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.05.2022

Bibliographical note

We thank the interviewees for their collaboration. This research is supported by the Volkswagenstiftung and the Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur (Grant Number A112269). This research draws on work undertaken in a large transdisciplinary research project (Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation). The author(s) acknowledge and thank all project members for their ideas and input in the early stages of this work, even where they are not listed as authors. Full details of project members and their research are available at .

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