Landscape ecology principles and landscape planning

What landscape planning signifies today used to be considered within the concept land use planning until three decades ago. Landscape planning, as a concept, emerged due to the growing awareness and concerns about problems and the developments that took place in the society (Marsh, 2005). Although similar at first sight with land use planning, as both of

them deal with the macro environment, landscape planning focuses on the resources and systems of landscape in the planning and management decisions.

Coined in the late 1930s and developed thanks to aerial photography, landscape ecology originally focused on the spatial patterns created by the environment and vegetation. Ecology studies the interactions of organisms with their environment, and a landscape is a mosaic with ecosystems and land uses. Landscape ecology focuses on heterogeneous land mosaics, where the distribution, movement and flow of living beings and materials could be easily observed and foreseen. The principles of landscape ecology, particularly taking the landscape as the unit of study, later gained prominence in landscape planning. Several authors, like McHarg (1969) and Steiner (1991), sought to bridge the gap between landscape ecology and planning and gave way to the development of ecological approaches of landscape planning. More recently, the concept ‘ecological landscape planning’ has gained prominence (Cook & Lier, 1994). Whereas it is commonplace in landscape planning to use administrative boundaries or watersheds (Cook & Lier, 1994), the methodology of ecological landscape planning is based on landscape ecology. In addition, landscape ecology is related to land evaluation. The focus of land evaluation has changed considerably since the 1960s, from classification and potentiality, to feasibility and lastly sustainable land use in the 1990s (Peng et al., 2006). As both concepts share a common emphasis on social, economic and ecological values, landscape ecology could be utilized in relation with sustainable land use evaluation (Peng et al., 2006; Turner, 1989).

Ecological approaches of landscape planning constitute guidelines that shed light on various steps of planning processes such as data collection and analysis, participation and eventual monitoring (Langevelde, 1994). Ecological principles are functional in maintaining the integrity of landscape by increasing connectivity and minimizing fragmentation and land degradation. Below, four landscape ecological principles are presented: patches, edges and boundaries, corridors and connectivity, and mosaics (Dramstad et al., 1996).