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November 2005
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PEERING INTO THE landscapes of the FUTURE

Land-use experts are inviting people to take a look at the kinds of local landscapes their children might live in decades from now.

And the new, high-tech tools that will enable people to see what a landscape might look like in the future as a result of changes in its use will be explored at an event in Edinburgh on Thursday, December 1st.

Scientists in Scotland have been helping to develop computer software that can show on screen how proposed developments, for example, new forests, redesigned forests, or projects to “green” brownfield sites, will make the land look and change over time.

And more than 60 representatives from environmental, countryside and forestry organisations across the United Kingdom will meet at the Royal Society of Edinburgh to hear about the latest developments in the technology and to discuss its future use and development. They will be joined by speakers from Canada, England and Switzerland.

The technology is being developed by scientists at the Aberdeen-based Macaulay Institute and Forest Research, working in co-operation with others in Sweden, Norway, France, Switzerland, Portugal and elsewhere in the UK. They hope it will help to encourage and enable the public to get involved in land-use decision-making.

The project is known as VISULANDS (Visualisation tools for public participation in managing landscape change). It is being funded by the European Commission, universities and public research organisations from across Europe, including the Scottish Executive Environment & Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) and the Forestry Commission.

Thursday’s workshop will include presentations on work done at three British study sites that have been used to test indicators, visualisations and end-users’ perceptions. They are

Clashindarroch Forest, near Huntly in north-east Scotland; the Isle of Wight in southern England; and Clocaenog Forest in northern Wales.

Looking forward to the event, Professor David Miller from the Macaulay Institute’s Landscape Change Science Area said: “Many of us can be instinctively cautious or even suspicious about proposals to change the way our local landscape looks and functions, especially if it is a landscape we have known and loved for many years. The kinds of land-use changes that can arouse this caution include proposals to plant a new forest, redesign an existing forest, or establish a wind farm.

“So we hope that this exciting new tool will help to take some of the anxiety out of the process by helping people to visualise what the options are, and help them to contribute in a positive way to discussions about proposals for their local landscapes.

“Thursday’s workshop will bring together people who have an interest in understanding the implications of different options for the future of our landscapes. Computers have the potential to provide new tools for visualising indicators of landscape change in a way that is useful and meaningful to the public and land-use experts alike.”

The opening speaker at the conference will be Forestry Commission Director-General Tim Rollinson, who added, “I look forward to seeing the results of this exciting collaborative project. Increasingly here in Scotland, and throughout Europe, people want to have their say in the future of their rural landscapes. This project promises new understanding that will add a new dimension to public engagement and shape land-use policy in the years to come.”

Other speakers will include Professor Stephen Sheppard from the University of British Columbia in Canada and Dr Englebert Ruoss from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Entlebuch in Switzerland.

1. Thursday’s workshop will be held from 0930 to 1630 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22-26 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ. Media representatives wishing to attend should report on site to Jane Lund from the Macaulay Institute. Prior notification of attendance to the Macaulay Institute media contact below would be appreciated.

2. VISULANDS is a 3-year, European Commission-funded 5th Framework research project led by Professor David Miller of The Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen, with project partners in Sweden, Norway, France, Switzerland, Portugal and the UK. The main aim of VISULANDS is the development and application of visualisation tools to support public involvement in the assessment of landscape change.

3. The Macaulay Institute is the premier land-use research institute in the UK, with 270 staff based at Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen. The Institute aims to be an international leader in research on the use of rural land resources for the benefit of people and the environment, and is involved in research across the globe, from Scotland to Chile and China. For further information, visit

4. Forest Research is an agency of the Forestry Commission and is the UK’s principal forestry and tree-related research organisation. It conducts scientific research and technical development relevant to forestry for a range of clients, and collaborates extensively with other organisations in Europe and farther afield. For further information, visit . Details of Forest Research’s work within VisuLands can be found at

5. The Entlebuch Biosphere Reserve in central Switzerland covers 39,659 hectares at the foot of the Alps. 17,000 people live in the reserve, 36% of whom are involved in the primary sector. There is a lack of attractive, modern jobs for well-educated people, and many young people are forced to move to bigger towns. Regional development is therefore one of the main concerns of the reserve. The inhabitants see the reserve as an opportunity to promote tourism, a way of cultivating natural resources (such as grass, woods and landscapes), and a market for regional products. The cultural interest in the reserve is rich and includes the conservation of the special characters of the villages in the region, such as alpine agricultural traditions including farms, vegetable gardens, cow sheds, cheese production, and peat extraction, as well as churches, pilgrimage sites and cultural events. A project to monitor the success of sustainable regional development is under way. It will develop aims and indicators for tourism, agriculture, forestry, traffic and energy.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Macaulay Institute – Karen Sage, Tricker PR , telephone office: 01224 646 491; mobile: 07795 522012; e-mail:

Forest Research – Charlton Clark, Forestry Commission press office, 0131 314 6500; mobile 07810 181067; e-mail: