Landscape Architecture

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ABSTRACT

We have proposed a framework for transforming landscapes to improve performance by integrating ecological principles into landscape design. This effort would focus on the development of multifunctional landscapes, guided by the rapidly growing knowledge base of ecosystem services provided by landscape features. Although the conventional approach to landscape ecology is based on a model that assumes poor ecological quality in the human-dominated matrix, a review of recent literature reveals important opportunities to improve the quality of the landscape matrix by increasing spatial heterogeneity through the addition of seminatural landscape elements designed to provide multiple ecosystem services. Taken alone, these individual elements might not appear to have a large impact on the environment, but when considered together within the entire landscape, the contribution could be significant, particularly when these elements are intentionally designed to improve landscape performance. Previous attention has focused on the value of large patches of native vegetation for conservation efforts. These efforts have included preserving those areas that still remain, restoring those that once existed, and providing connectivity between them. But great opportunities exist to improve the quality of the matrix by designing multifunctional elements throughout the landscape. Through a synthesis of knowledge in landscape architecture and landscape ecology, we have demonstrated some important applications of the landscape performance framework in urban and agricultural settings. Based on a review of the literature, we have suggested several methods of evaluating and monitoring landscape performance to determine the relative success of a designed landscape.

Key words: agroecosystem; design guidelines; ecological design; ecosystem services; human-dominated; multifunctional landscape; multifunctionality; urban agriculture; urban ecology.

INTRODUCTION

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008), global population exceeded 6 billion in 2000, and is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Conventional knowledge suggests that the growing global population will require more land on which to live and produce food for survival, and that this land requirement will come at the expense of native ecosystems as they are converted to cropland or urban living spaces (anthropogenic landscapes). This pattern has been observed in many cultures during various time periods throughout history. Today, however, we live in a world where only a small percentage of land remains relatively undisturbed. This land is found primarily in areas where agriculture, and thus human occupation, is inefficient and even impractical. Many scientists agree that these relatively undisturbed areas should be protected and conserved due to the important ecological functions they provide (Wilson et al. 2007). Although there is great pressure to support a growing population, an alternative to the conversion of our last remaining important ecosystems is needed. We suggest that one solution may be found through the integration of existing knowledge in the fields of landscape architecture and landscape ecology. This synthesis can be used to develop creative alternatives for the transformation of our anthropogenic landscapes, with a focus on multifunctionality for improving overall performance of the landscape.

The field of landscape ecology has recognized and even encouraged a connection between science and landscape design from the beginning. European geographer Carl Troll (1950) noted that “landscape design provides the active creation of the cultural landscape, not only to meet its functional requirements, but also to create a harmonic structure in the appearance of the landscape, if not in its artistic design.” Yet a large gap remains between the growing body of research in landscape ecology and the application of this information in the design of landscapes based...
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