Perception and use of landscape concepts in the procedure of Environmental Impact Assessment: Case study-Switzerland and Romania
The European Landscape Convention (ELC) defines landscape as "an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors". Because all aspects linked to landscape are evaluated during the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) procedure, we assessed the Swiss and Romanian experts' perception and EIA reports regarding the landscape concept. Therefore, we analysed Swiss and Romanian experts' perception of landscape, we evaluated concepts and methods used in environmental impact reports to assess landscape characteristics and functions, and how the ELC's aim and objectives are reflected by the EIA reports. The Canonical Correspondence Analysis performed to evaluate the experts' perception of landscape integration in the EIA procedure showed a significant relationship among pattern of answers and experts' professional background. Moreover, there is a significant difference between Swiss and Romanian expert's perception. Longer experience in the field and a higher level of education indicates higher awareness of landscape characteristics and properties, which demonstrates that alongside with the initial training, there is a need for developing a coherent long-life learning systems having landscape analysis as a focus. The ELC is familiar to nearly 86% of the Romanian Environmental Impact Assessment actors and nearly 29% of the Swiss experts. By contrast, most of the Romanian EIA reports analysed do not employ many concepts of the ELC, while most of the Swiss environmental reports incorporate objectives of landscape protection consistent with the Convention. Our study relies on the comparative investigation of representative case studies of Environmental Impact Assessment reports for industry, local infrastructures, tourism facilities, and wind farm projects, as well on tracking how the European Landscape Convention is reflected by the EIA reports. We found that EIA reports from both countries evaluate the visual landscape, thus, achieving subjective assessment of landscape aesthetics without focusing on social and ecological sub-systems. Quantitative elements of landscape analysis are mostly absent and it is challenging to evaluate whether environmental assessments are consistent among European Landscape Convention countries. To overcome the abstract way of evaluation of project's impact on landscape through EIA procedure, an improved landscape analysis procedure is needed and we propose developing technical guidelines, under the European Landscape Convention umbrella, in order to enhance landscape management. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.