Investigating sense of place as a cultural ecosystem service in different landscapes through the lens of language

Flurina M. Wartmann*, Ross S. Purves

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


The concept of ecosystem services is increasingly important for measuring both tangible and intangible benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems. Much research on ecosystem services focused on more tangible services. Intangible cultural ecosystem services, such as sense of place, are often neglected, but in the context of highly populated, increasingly urbanized countries, maintenance of cultural ecosystem services is an important policy objective. One of the challenges of integrating sense of place into the framework of ecosystem services is that it is not linked to abstract notions of ecosystems, but tied to perceived landscape features such as mountains, or rivers. In this study, we used free listings and interviews with visitors to investigate perceived landscape features and sense of place through the lens of language in five different landscape types in Switzerland. Within each landscape type, we selected two study sites to quantitatively and qualitatively compare landscape descriptions. Using text processing, we show that terms for landscape features were more similar within the same landscape type, suggesting that people perceive differences between these landscapes that they express in language. However, in general, elicited concepts related to sense of place were similar across landscape types. Thus, our results show that we can use free-listing descriptions to distinguish landscape types, but we found limited differences in the language used to describe sense of place. Our findings offer insights into exploring sense of place in different landscapes and contribute to ongoing efforts for refining the definitions and standardizing assessments of cultural ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-183
Number of pages15
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Early online date6 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

We are grateful for the comments and feedback of three anonymous reviewers. We thank Olga Chesnokova for her help in calculating cosine similarity measures. The research on which this paper is based was financially supported by the cogito foundation through the project ‘How language shapes our sense of place’, grant no. 15-129-R.


  • Cultural ecosystem services
  • Free listing tasks
  • Landscape descriptions
  • Landscape values
  • Sense of place


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