Looking at Landscapes for Biodiversity: Whose View Will Do?

  • F Patrick Smith
Part of the Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography book series (LNGC)


Biodiversity conservation is increasingly one of the multiple outcomes for which landscapes are managed, alas, this may not be as straight-forward as we would like. Despite our intentions, we tend to look at landscapes from a human perspective, but when we are aiming to conserve biodiversity this perspective can be decidedly unhelpful. Other biota do not perceive landscapes in the same way as people do, nor is one species’ ‘view’ necessarily like another.

Biodiversity research within the highly modified landscapes of Australia reinforces our understanding that different taxa w— even from within the same family of organisms — can have strikingly different needs for persistence in a landscape. Different organisms can respond in completely different ways to the same landscape change, some for better, some for worse. The notion that a landscape can have — or at some time in the past has had — a single state that is ‘best’ is fanciful. One must always ask ‘best for what?’ for as soon as a change is made to improve the lot of one group or taxon, another may suffer.

Landscape managers have many tools at their disposal to help take in these varied perspectives. Firstly mapping and modelling of climate, terrain, hydrological, pedological and geological features are an important start, especially in helping to inform our understanding of the temporal and spatial distribution of both biota and biologically important processes. Secondly the mapping and modelling of vegetation distribution, type and condition is an important output in its own right and is also an important input to higher biodiversity related analyses. Finally we can map and model the movement of biota or biological entities (such as pollen or genes) throughout landscapes, both explicitly and implicitly. A present challenge is for us to learn to integrate these tools in order that we avoid unintended bias in our analyses.

Whenever we seek to map, model, ‘design’ or in any way understand landscapes we need to ask ourselves ‘whose view will do?’ If our objective is a landscape that is ‘best’ for humans then our task is (relatively) easy. However, if our objective is a landscape that is ‘best’ for non-human biodiversity then typically there is no ‘right’ answer, there is no ‘best’ outcome. We simply must be clear about our landscape objective and then do our best to ‘view’ the landscape with the appropriate — likely multiple, and hopefully well integrated — perspectives.


Habitat Patch Patch Occupancy Human Perspective Australian Landscape Unintended Bias 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • F Patrick Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsWestern Australia

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