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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Landscape usage by recreationists is shaped by availability: insights from a national PPGIS survey in Sweden

Lehto, Carl; Hedblom, Marcus; Öckinger, Erik; Ranius, Thomas


Areas suitable for outdoor recreation are in decline due to urbanization and land-use intensification. To provide people with access to recreational areas, it is imperative to understand what characterizes areas attractive to recreationists. In this study we explore patterns of outdoor recreation visits on a national scale, using a large (n = 3853) Public Participatory GIS survey in Sweden. We analyze land cover of areas visited in comparison to landscape composition across a gradient from urban to rural areas. Additionally, we employ machine learning models to compare attributes of areas visited to random areas in the available landscape. We found that the geographical distribution of outdoor recreation was highly aggregated, with 57 % of recreation occurring in urban and periurban areas, which together cover 5 % of the total land area. Landscape characteristics were weak predictors of where outdoor recreation took place. The median travel distance to the area where recreation was conducted was 2 km, which is longer than what recreationists prefer according to previous studies. We argue that this is indicative of a recreational deficit in Sweden, with recreationists’ preferences not being expressed due to lack of access to suitable areas close to home. This highlights the importance for physical planners to consider spatial accessibility when planning for outdoor recreation.


Landscape heterogeneity; Machine learning; Public Participatory GIS; Revealed preferences; Recreation; Travelling distance

Published in

Landscape and Urban Planning
2022, Volume: 227, article number: 104519