Braun Kohlova, M., Nepozitkova, P., Melichar, J. (2021) How Do Observable Characteristics of Post-Mining Forests Affect Their Attractiveness for Recreation? Land 2021, 10(9), 910; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10090910
Afforestation is a popular practice of the recovery of landscape affected by open-cast coal mining. We investigated what impact the observable characteristics of restored forests have on their attractiveness for recreation framed as a one hour walk in a respective type of forest. In this study, we elaborate on some of the observable characteristics which have been previously found in the literature to affect the perceived attractiveness of outdoor environments. Environmental preference data were collected online using a quasi-representative sample of affected and control populations of the Czech Republic (N = 869). The questionnaire employed visual representations of typical reclaimed forest sites on spoil heaps in the Sokolov mining district. A mediation analysis revealed that forests growing in post-mining areas are perceived more negatively than the typical commercial spruce forest due to their lower permeability, lower level of stewardship, and perceived low safety. However, there are differences in observed characteristics also between different types of restored forests, even when controlling the effect of forest age. The results show for forestry practice that while some of the observed characteristics change by themselves with the increasing age of the forest (permeability, perceived safety, and naturalness of successional forests), improvement in others requires targeted after-care (perceived stewardship). In any case, our results are promising in that they imply that the recreational value of restored forests in post-mining areas may further increase in the future.