Integrating Nature and Culture in Landscape Ecology

  • Jianguo Wu
Part of the Ecological Research Monographs book series (ECOLOGICAL)


A landscape is more than just a geographic space because it has contents; a landscape is not merely a container because it shapes and is shaped by what it contains; a landscape is not just an environment modified by humans because it is a holistic system in which nature and culture co-evolve. Landscapes are endowed with, and continue to foster, the development of cultures, legacies, and stories. With increasing human domination and domestication of the earth system, most landscapes have become “cultural landscapes” in which people interact or interfere with nature, whereas “natural landscapes” are found only as “islands” in an expanding sea of human land uses. As such, cultural landscapes already are, and will continue to be, the primary objects of study for landscape ecology. Thus, landscape ecology, as an interdisciplinary science seeking to understand and improve the ecology and sustainability of landscapes, needs to appreciate and incorporate the different dimensions of landscapes, especially those concerning human–environmental relationships. However, the cultural dimension of landscapes has been neither adequately studied nor considered “mainstream” in landscape ecology, although pioneering landscape ecologists in both Europe and North America have recognized the importance of the human role in shaping landscapes. To move forward, we need to develop a more complete understanding of the concepts of natural landscapes, cultural landscapes, and culture–nature relationships; we need to reconnect culture with nature more effectively in landscape ecology. To achieve this goal, landscape ecology has much to learn from social sciences such as human geography, and even more to gain from trans-disciplinary collaborations with these fields. Difference is not deficiency, and diversity is not divergence. Pluralistic and ecumenical approaches to landscape ecology are needed if its objects of study – cultural landscapes – are not merely to be “studied” but also “improved.”


Landscape Ecology Urban Landscape Cultural Landscape Natural Landscape National Park Service 
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.



I would like to thank the following students and colleagues of mine for ­discussions on issues related to Asian landscape ecology: Cheng Li, Junxiang Li, Yu Tian, Qi Yang, and Ting Zhou. It is always a great pleasure to discuss sustainability and philosophical issues with Tong Wu, who also provided valuable comments on the manuscript of this chapter. My research in landscape ecology and sustainability has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research: DEB 9714833 and DEB-0423704; Biocomplexity/CNH: BCS-0508002), the US Environmental Protection Agency (Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program: R827676-01-0), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (multiple collaborative grants).


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© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life Sciences, School of Sustainability, and Global Institute of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Sino-US Center for Conservation, Energy, and Sustainability (SUCCESS), Inner Mongolia UniversityHohhotChina

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