Interactive learning of landscape services trade-offs in 3D collaborative environments

Authors and Affiliations: 

Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Michaela Teich, Thomas M. Klein, Noemi Neuenschwander,
Ulrike Wissen Hayek

PLUS, Planning of Landsape and Urban Sytems, ETH, Zürich, Switzerland



Given the growing needs for services provided by nature, our challenge is to understand and thoughtfully manage the trade-offs among them. While to an agronomist, we have altered wild land to provide food, we have degraded nature in the eyes of a conservationist. Knowledge and awareness of the interactions between landscape services thus are decisive for making sound decisions about landscape development. Due to lack of information on interactions among landscape services and since many landscape services have no market value, trade-offs and synergies are usually not negotiated effectively. Particularly taking into account cultural services has been considered as difficult because of their characteristics as being “intangible” and subjective, thus difficult to quantify in biophysical or monetary terms.


Besides monetary valuation, new approaches for resolving complex trade-offs among and between landscape services are emerging. Especially, when cultural services such as aesthetics have to be weighed against provisioning, regulating or habitat services, interactive 3D visualization tools linked to GIS-based modeling might provide an essential interface for explicitly considering often unintentionally ignored landscape services. A crucial factor in the success of such tools is the communication of the relevant information to decision-makers in a credible and comprehensible manner. Virtual decision environments have been suggested for controlling variables within a decision context made real by tangible inducements. Interactive and immersive 3D landscape visualization tools combining visual and non-visual information seem to be valuable for assessing different landscape change scenarios in stakeholder processes.

In this contribution, we show how people can explore future options of landscape development by weighting landscape services interactively in virtual 3D environments. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach tested in a participatory process for implementing a new water protection regulation in Switzerland. We show how interactive controllers embedded in 3D GIS-based environments have assisted stakeholders in making landscape services trade-offs explicit. Communication of landscape services and related costs of implementation of different river enlargement scenarios in an iterative process supported by a 3D collaborative platform has led to a learning process and consensus-oriented deliberations. We conclude about the effectiveness of the approach as a means of encouraging lay people and stakeholders to get involved efficiently in the development of landscapes securing the long-term provision of needed services.