Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 651–665 | Cite as

Making Sense of Human Ecology Mapping: An Overview of Approaches to Integrating Socio-Spatial Data into Environmental Planning

  • Rebecca McLain
  • Melissa Poe
  • Kelly Biedenweg
  • Lee Cerveny
  • Diane Besser
  • Dale Blahna


Ecosystem-based planning and management have stimulated the need to gather sociocultural values and human uses of land in formats accessible to diverse planners and researchers. Human Ecology Mapping (HEM) approaches offer promising spatial data gathering and analytical tools, while also addressing important questions about human-landscape connections. This article reviews and compares the characteristics of three HEM approaches that are increasingly used in natural resource management contexts, each focused on a particular aspect of human-environmental interactions. These aspects include tenure and resource use (TRU), local ecological knowledge (LEK), and sense of place (SOP). We discuss their origins, provide examples of their use, and identify challenges to their application. Our review serves as a guide for environmental managers, planners, and communities interested in gathering spatial data on aspects of human ecology important in ecosystem-based management and planning, and for scientists designing socioecological research.


Human ecology mapping Ecosystem-based planning Socioecological systems Landscape values mapping 



This work was supported by the USDA-Forest Service, PNW Research Station under Joint Venture Agreement PNW 08-JV-11261985-177, Mapping socioecological meanings of Olympic Peninsula landscapes. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their feedback on the article and Leilan Greer for her assistance with copy-editing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca McLain
    • 1
  • Melissa Poe
    • 2
  • Kelly Biedenweg
    • 3
  • Lee Cerveny
    • 4
  • Diane Besser
    • 1
  • Dale Blahna
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Culture and EcologyPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Northwest Sustainability InstituteSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Puget Sound InstituteTacomaUSA
  4. 4.USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research StationSeattleUSA

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