Project Description

The United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) highlighted the urgent action needed to reverse global biodiversity loss, adopting a Global Biodiversity Framework that stipulates restoring 30% of ecosystems by 2030. To address ecosystem restoration at landscape scale, beavers are considered ecosystem engineers as they modify their landscapes primarily via damming streams, creating a dynamic patchwork of unique habitats (Law et al., 2017). Restoring beavers to their former distribution can therefore provide a range of ecosystem services and benefits. Ecological and hydrological effects of beaver restoration are relatively well studied (e.g. on water retention or biodiversity improvements). However, apart from the direct impact of beavers and economic impacts on agricultural lands through flooding, and associated conservation conflicts with stakeholders in the farming sector (Auster et al., 2021), less is known on intangible cultural ecosystem services and disservices of beaver-modified landscapes (Ulicsni et al., 2020).

For example, how do changes associated with beaver modifications change landscape values such as aesthetics, sense of place, or place identity? Are beaver landscapes seen as beautiful, or ugly? Do they disrupt or create new place identity values? And how do cultural landscape values associated with beaver landscapes differ across cultural and ecological settings, e.g. where beavers live in different ecological settings such as in the proposed study sites of Central Europe (e.g. Germany/Switzerland) and Scandinavia, compared with recent reintroductions in Britain?

This project uses a mix of research methods to assess cultural ecosystem services associated with beaver-modified landscapes. These will include a critical literature review of existing ethnographic studies with a cross-cultural focus (including how indigenous people view beaver landscapes) as well as in situ social science data collection methods such as transect walks, focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires. Qualitative analysis of interviews and focus groups will be complemented with a quantitative statistical analysis of data from questionnaires distributed to the wider public in the three study sites (UK, Scandinavia, Central Europe), allowing statistical comparison and modelling of factors influencing cultural landscape values (Wartmann et al. 2021).

Ecological knowledge will be used to determine different sites to assess cultural landscapes of different ecological settings, in different stages of modifications, where there is existing evidence of ecological impacts having taken place. This is a novel approach, as typically little ecological knowledge is integrated into social science landscape assessments. In turn, insights gained from the societal research can inform how ecological management can better integrate societal values to reduce conservation conflicts.

Understanding cultural landscape values of beaver modified landscapes in different cultural contexts requires an interdisciplinary approach, which is crucial in determining societal perceptions and acceptance/rejection of further beaver expansion and may also influence public views on reintroductions of other species. Knowledge generated from this project will inform cultural ecosystem service assessment methods and understanding of such services in different cultural contexts, which is relevant for policy, as well as how to manage societal relations with respect to ecological management of reintroducing species in Great Britain and elsewhere.


Candidate Essential skills:

  • Background in social science, human geography, cultural anthropology, environmental psychology, or similar experience is necessary
  • Excellent communication skills in English are necessary
  • The candidate should be willing to travel abroad for fieldwork and conduct independent fieldwork in rural locations
  • Willingness to develop capacities in qualitative and quantitative social science methodologies is essential
  • An interest in working across disciplines is essential


Candidate Desirable skills:

  • Previous experience in working in remote locations, with different stakeholders is highly desirable
  • Previous experience of engaging with cultural ecosystem services, cultural landscape values or landscape aesthetics would be highly beneficial
  • Knowledge of an additional European language spoken in the selected study sites is not essential, but would be beneficial (e.g. German, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish)
  • An understanding of relevant methods associated with analyses of qualitatively or quantitatively derived data.


Photo by Derek Otway on Unsplash


Flurina Wartmann

Primary Supervisor:

Profile: Flurina Wartmann
Institution: University of Aberdeen
Department/School: School of Geosciences

Secondary Supervisor:

Prof. David G. Anderson, University of Aberdeen, School of Social Science / Anthropology
Academic profile:
Email address:

Additional Supervisor:

Dr. Alan Law, Lecturer in Nature-Based Solutions, School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling

Academic profile:

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  • Auster, R. E., Barr, S. W., & Brazier, R. E. (2021). Improving engagement in managing reintroduction conflicts: learning from beaver reintroduction. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 64(10), 1713–1734.
  • Law, A., Gaywood, M. J., Jones, K. C., Ramsay, P., & Willby, N. J. (2017). Using ecosystem engineers as tools in habitat restoration and rewilding: beaver and wetlands. Science of the Total Environment, 605, 1021–1030.
  • Ulicsni, V., Babai, D., Juhász, E., Molnár, Z., & Biró, M. (2020). Local knowledge about a newly reintroduced, rapidly spreading species (Eurasian beaver) and perception of its impact on ecosystem services. Plos One, 15(5), e0233506.
  • Wartmann, F. M., Frick, J., Kienast, F., & Hunziker, M. (2021). Factors influencing visual landscape quality perceived by the public. Results from a national survey. Landscape and Urban Planning, 208, 104024.


  • biodiversity

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