What’s landscape ecology?

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Landscape ecology studies natural and artificial variations within landscapes, including built environments. It explores the impact of human activities on the environment and promotes sensible land-use policies. Individuals can enter the field through ecology, horticulture, conservation, and anthropology. Anyone with a garden can impact landscape ecology.

Landscape ecology is the study of variation within landscapes, both on a large and small scale. This field is highly interdisciplinary, with people approaching landscape ecology from a variety of perspectives, ranging from landscape architecture to energy conservation. As the use of the term ‘ecology’ would imply, landscape ecology is heavily involved in the study of the environment, but includes built environments as well as natural ones.

Within any given landscape, there is a great deal of spatial variation. Some variations are natural, caused by a variety of processes, from geological activity to migratory animals. The other variation is created artificially. Landscape ecologists are particularly interested in mixed landscapes and the impact of human activities on the environment.

Landscape ecologists study purely natural and purely built environments, and explore the bridge between the two. They are interested in topics such as how indigenous peoples shape forests, how tree cover affects temperatures in cities, how people respond to cultivated landscapes, how agriculture affects the environment, and so on. They can study a landscape as small as a courtyard or as large as a large geographic region.

The field of landscape ecology is naturally involved in advocacy for the environment, as well as promoting thoughtful planning of human communities and developing sensible land-use policies and creative methods for using the natural landscape without overpowering it. Landscape ecologists look at the big picture, sometimes literally when studying satellite imagery of the landscape, and are involved with government agencies, conservation organizations, private companies and consultancies, doing everything from advising on how a landscape could be restored after impact they give discussion on ways in which buildings could be integrated into the landscape.

Individuals interested in a career in landscape ecology can enter the field in a variety of ways. They can start in an ecology program, learning the principles of ecology and expanding into landscape ecology. They can also study horticulture, landscaping, conservation, land use policy, and even topics such as anthropology, studying the history of land use and learning from the mistakes and triumphs of previous human societies.

Individuals can also impact landscape ecology, even if they are not landscape ecologists. Anyone with a garden interacts directly with the natural landscape and can make planning decisions that will change the look, feel and purpose of the landscape. Together, a community of gardeners can have a substantial impact on a regional landscape and how people interact with it.

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