The typology described above indicates which criteria and characteristics are involved in evaluations of wilderness and its spread, and what the typical attitudes are and what the reasoning used to justify them is. In the representative survey it became clear that general definitions of wilderness are strongly oriented towards scientific criteria: Most people in the test sample understood “wilderness” to refer to areas still untouched by human influence (90.8%), to abandoned land (64.0%) or to areas with thick vegetation (51.3%). Only 40.9% of the respondents considered renaturalised areas, i. e. areas in which a particular “natural” state is actively restored, to be wilderness (Fig. 3).
Moreover, the majority of respondents (56.4%) thought that, in order for them to feel that they are out in the wild, it was important for there to be large distances between wilderness areas and peri-urban regions.
Only 42.8% could imagine having a wilderness in a peri-urban region, but 52.3% were still in favour of establishing wilderness areas in such regions. This apparently contradictory finding is due to the different criteria used for labelling different types of wilderness: If respondents are asked explicitly which natural spaces in peri-urban regions they feel to be wilderness, their definitions of wilderness change. Derelict land, i. e. plots in peri-urban regions that are no longer used and that have therefore become covered with grass and shrubs, are seen by 66.3% of the respondents to be wilderness areas. Steep ravines, which are largely undisturbed natural areas, parks with flower meadows and shrubs, and near-natural gardens, are mostly not perceived as wilderness.
untouched by human abandoned land areas with thick renaturalised areas
Fig. 3. Criteria of wilderness areas according to the respondents of the questionnaire survey (n=1,536)
The results show that the characteristics of wilderness areas described as “typical” tend to stem from scientific definitions. These characteristics, however, do not necessarily correspond to what people want from wilderness. Typical characteristics of wilderness are seen to be the absence of human influence (68% of replies), the absence of economic exploitation (84.4% of replies) and the absence of use for leisure activities, such as sport (60.3% of replies).
What people want and require in wilderness areas is not, however, reconcilable with these typical characteristics: 91.8% of the respondents want notice boards with information about the local vegetation and 67.8% want a network of paths. Some respondents expect to find even more human features in wilderness areas and to have camp-fire places, benches and rubbish bins (57% of respondents) as well as parking areas for visitors (54.3 % of respondents).