The main objective of the study was to elicit key concepts determining the aesthetic appeal of coastal dunes and forests using the example of the Curonian Spit (Lithuania). The mixed approach included three methods: (1) paired comparison survey of 45 coastal landscapes, (2) semi-structured interviews with local inhabitants, and (3) eliciting the key aesthetic appeal concepts by a panel of experts using the Delphi technique. The results of the paired comparison survey show that the most aesthetically appealing landscapes of the Curonian Spit are: (1) white mobile dunes, (2) white dunes with grey (grassland) dunes in the background, and (3) grey dunes with white dunes in the background. The local inhabitants considered the concept of visual coherence as the best, explaining the aesthetic appeal of the dune and the forest landscapes on the spit. The experts of the Delphi survey considered that the concepts of stewardship, naturalness, imageability, and visual scale best define the scenic appeal. The appeal of the least attractive landscapes, in their opinion, was shaped by the concepts of naturalness, disturbance, and complexity. We conclude that the notions of visitors, local inhabitants and experts differ on the aesthetic appeal concepts of coastal dunes and forests, suggesting potential management conflicts.
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