Applied Geography: Principles and Practice: An Introduction to Useful Research in Physical, Environmental and Human Geography

By Michael Pacione | Go to book overview
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16

Landscape evaluation

Rosemary Burton


INTRODUCTION

The physical landscape consists of two elements, the landform landscape and the land-use landscape. The former is made up of land and drainage systems and is a product of the interaction between geology, climate and tectonics expressed through geomorphological processes. The land-use landscape consists of the land surface, which in most climatic zones is dominated by the flora and fauna, and is the product of ecological processes. In a truly ‘natural’ landscape, these processes are unmodified by man. However, throughout the world man is an agent of rather more rapid environmental and landscape change, either directly as a consequence of past and present exploitation of natural resources, or indirectly through man-induced climate change.

Therefore it could be argued that there are few if any areas in the world where landscapes are totally free of man’s influence. Indeed, landscape ecologists include man as an integral part of the landscape (Neveh and Leiberman 1989). Landscapes that result from the interaction between people and land are termed ‘cultural’ landscapes.

Early geographical interest in landscapes concerned their analysis rather than their evaluation, and one strand of geographical research has continued to describe, analyse, classify and map landscape character, most recently with the use of geographical information systems (GIS) (Jeurry Blankson and Green 1991; Brabyn 1996).

Such studies aim to be objective and non-evaluative; they provide a database that can inform the implementation of spatial landscape policies but do not contribute directly to the policy debate. However, it is applied research in that it provides tools and techniques of immediate practical use in policy implementation.

Landscape evaluation research, on the other hand, is by implication policy-related because it is concerned with the values that different people attach to landscapes. Landscapes can be valued for different things, such as their ecological characteristics, their visual qualities, and their cultural and historical meanings. Evaluation of the ecological aspects of landscape is generally left to expert ecologists, because such judgements are made on criteria such as biodiversity, rarity and complexity rather than on criteria related to visual characteristics, and ecologically based landscape planning on other characteristics of natural systems (Selman 1993). While the separation of the ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ is to be regretted (Phillips 1998), in practice landscape evaluation research has been concerned more with investigating the visual, aesthetic, cultural and heritage values of landscape.


THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM

The designation of the world’s first national parks in the nineteenth century (e.g. Yellowstone, USA, in 1872, the Royal in Australia, 1879) indicates that the protection of valued landscapes is not a recent addition to the planning agenda. The process of identifying and designating valued landscapes for protection has continued throughout

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