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Landscape ecology as a bridge from ecosystems to human ecology

Haber, W 2004, Ecological Research, vol. 19, pp. 99-106.

Building connections between ecosystem research and human ecology will result in interdisciplinary landscape research and a holistic approach to ecological management. To promote biodiversity and sustainability, landscape research, landscape design and human ecology must consciously select facts and spatially arrange ecosystems or ecotopes (‘diversified land-use units’) while keeping in mind the intensity of modern land-use.

  The idea of nature has been categorised into two types: ‘nature as seen by science’, which is abstract and thus only able to be understood through analysis of its components; and ‘nature of the landscape’, which is the viewer’s perspective of the landscape as a whole and is not generally applicable to scientific analysis. Developing from a longstanding aesthetic concept, landscape as a scientific concept was introduced by Humboldt in the early 19th century. The term ‘landscape’ also combines two different aspects: first, an environmental situation – a patchwork of ecosystems/ecotopes – with objectively measurable features (‘landscape metrics’); and, second, an ‘internal mental disposition’, which responds to the enjoyment of the natural environment with a sense of comfort and security. This mental construct is based on a holistic impression of the landscape with only limited emphasis on its functional elements.

  Landscape ecology has been highly effective in highlighting the functions, processes and patterns of landscapes. Ecologists, however, have primarily undertaken scientific investigations in isolation from research being conducted into the social and mental aspects of landscapes. If landscape ecology becomes more open to integrating the research being undertaken in the humanities and other relevant disciplines, including social philosophy and design, then a more effective approach to environmental planning could be achieved. Although this diverse research is often more esoteric than that normally under consideration by scientists, assimilating the ‘landscape of the mind’ into their research will allow them to more clearly see the dual role of humans, operating as both biological organisms and intellectual and spiritual beings, in the people/landscape interaction. This approach requires highly effective teams, who utilise the learning gleaned from diverse disciplines, to be working on ecological projects.

 

Summarised by Rosemary Shaw

 

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