Using meaningful places as an indicator for sense of place in the management of social-ecological systems

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Knaps, F.; Gottwald, S.; Albert, C.; Herrmann, S.: Using meaningful places as an indicator for sense of place in the management of social-ecological systems. In: Ecology and society : E&S 27 (2022), Nr. 4, 9. DOI:

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Sum total of downloads: 47

Sense of place is increasingly advocated to support the management of social-ecological systems. Given the concept’s complexity, we suggest that an indicator for sense of place is needed to facilitate its application in practical planning. We propose such an indicator called “meaningful places,” defined as geographic locations to which (i) immediately perceived as well as socially constructed meanings are ascribed and (ii) evaluative attachments are tied. We applied the indicator in two independent case studies, Lübeck and Lahn, both of which aimed to integrate sense of place in an actual planning process. The case studies differed in the spatial scale of the meaningful places, the indicator’s operationalization, and the specific assessment methods. In the Lübeck case, semi-structured interviews and a simple mapping method were used to analyze participants’ “home-regions.” The results revealed diverse but overlapping locations characterized as aesthetic, different from others, close to nature, and quiet (place meanings). In the Lahn case, a public participation GIS (public participation geographic information system [PPGIS]) survey was conducted and yielded insights into the spatial distribution of meaningful places. The results reflect a wide range of place meanings linked to, for example, activities, aesthetic qualities, or well-being. Furthermore, participants expressed different intensities of place attachments. Although the indicator is still in an exploratory stage, it allows for reflection on potential benefits for planning practitioners. The resulting data can be combined with spatial information usually used in planning processes, e.g., about the state of the underlying physical environment and/or foreseeable drivers of change. This offers new opportunities for managers regarding the determination of priorities to conserve meaningful places, the anticipation of conflicts, and the utilization of the communicative power of meaningful places. We argue that the benefits for planning justify a new direction of research devoted to the development and further advancement of the indicator. © 2022 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.
License of this version: CC BY 4.0 Unported
Document Type: Article
Publishing status: publishedVersion
Issue Date: 2022
Appears in Collections:Fakultät für Architektur und Landschaft

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pos. country downloads
total perc.
1 image of flag of Germany Germany 24 51.06%
2 image of flag of United States United States 8 17.02%
3 image of flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom 3 6.38%
4 image of flag of Australia Australia 3 6.38%
5 image of flag of Romania Romania 2 4.26%
6 image of flag of Denmark Denmark 2 4.26%
7 image of flag of Russian Federation Russian Federation 1 2.13%
8 image of flag of Portugal Portugal 1 2.13%
9 image of flag of Netherlands Netherlands 1 2.13%
10 image of flag of Egypt Egypt 1 2.13%
    other countries 1 2.13%

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