25 Years of Landscape Ecology

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the International Association for Landscape Ecology and the 20th anniversary of the first publication of the journal Landscape Ecology. To highlight these landmarks several guest editorials appear in the latest edition of the journal (which has swelled from around 250 pages per year to almost 1,400).

Jianguo Wu briefly describes how the field of landscape ecology was first envisioned by Carl Troll as the integration of geographic and ecological disciplines, defining it as:

“the study of the main complex causal relationships between the life communities and their environment” which “are expressed regionally in a definite distribution pattern (landscape mosaic, landscape pattern)” (Troll 1971).

As such, the other invited Editorials discuss the need to remain holistic. As I’ve mentioned before, reading about the vision of a holistic landscape ecology is one of the reasons I’ve ended taking the route I have. Zev Naveh emphasises the need for landscape ecology to be a ‘transdisciplinary science of landscape sustainability’, providing pragmatic information for decision-making and becoming become a ‘post-normal’ prognostic and normative science.

Paul Opdam continues this discussion, highlighting the need for landscape ecologists to develop skills and techniques for transferring knowledge from science to the world of the actors in policy, planning, design and management. This knowledge transfer will be most successful if based on a science that provides credibility, saliency and legitimacy by considering the integrations of landscape systems as a whole. Thus holistic nature will then contribute to decisions based on principles of sustainable management of our landscapes.

However, Marc Antrop highlights that this potential has yet to be fully realised. The practical applications of landscape ecology in planning and policy making remain inadequate, the main problem lying in the (poor) communication to non-landscape ecologists. Landscape ecology will continue to provide insight into the functioning of interacting social, ecological, economic, and environmental systems at the landscape level. If it does become more prescriptive, as these Editorials suggest it must, it will also begin to contribute more obviously directly to the sustainable management of the landscapes in which we live.

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