Landscape Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 959–972

The shared landscape: what does aesthetics have to do with ecology?

  • Paul H. Gobster
  • Joan I. Nassauer
  • Terry C. Daniel
  • Gary Fry
Perspective

Abstract

This collaborative essay grows out of a debate about the relationship between aesthetics and ecology and the possibility of an “ecological aesthetic” that affects landscape planning, design, and management. We describe our common understandings and unresolved questions about this relationship, including the importance of aesthetics in understanding and affecting landscape change and the ways in which aesthetics and ecology may have either complementary or contradictory implications for a landscape. To help understand these issues, we first outline a conceptual model of the aesthetics–ecology relationship. We posit that:

1. While human and environmental phenomena occur at widely varying scales, humans engage with environmental phenomena at a particular scale: that of human experience of our landscape surroundings. That is the human “perceptible realm.”

2. Interactions within this realm give rise to aesthetic experiences, which can lead to changes affecting humans and the landscape, and thus ecosystems.

3. Context affects aesthetic experience of landscapes. Context includes both effects of different landscape types (wild, agricultural, cultural, and metropolitan landscapes) and effects of different personal–social situational activities or concerns. We argue that some contexts elicit aesthetic experiences that have traditionally been called “scenic beauty,” while other contexts elicit different aesthetic experiences, such as perceived care, attachment, and identity.

Last, we discuss how interventions through landscape planning, design, and management; or through enhanced knowledge might establish desirable relationships between aesthetics and ecology, and we examine the controversial characteristics of such ecological aesthetics. While these interventions may help sustain beneficial landscape patterns and practices, they are inherently normative, and we consider their ethical implications.

Keywords

Landscape perception Scenic beauty Ecological aesthetics Landscape change Context 

Selected references for further reading

  1. 1.
    Daniel TC (2001a) Whither scenic beauty? Visual landscape quality assessment in the 21st century. Landsc Urban Plann 54:267–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Daniel TC (2001b) Aesthetic preferences and ecological sustainability. In: Sheppard SRJ, Harshaw HW (eds) Forests and landscapes: linking ecology, sustainability and aesthetics. CABI Publishing, Oxon, pp 15–30Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Fry G, Sarlov-Herlin I (1997) The ecological and amenity functions of woodland edges in the agricultural landscape; a basis for design and management. Landsc Urban Plann 37:45–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gobster PH (1995) Aldo Leopold’s ecological esthetic: integrating esthetic and biodiversity values. J For 93:6–10Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Gobster PH (1999) An ecological aesthetic for forest landscape management. Landsc J 18:54–64Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Gobster PH (2001a) Foreword. In: Sheppard SRJ, Harshaw HW (eds) Forests and landscapes: linking ecology, sustainability and aesthetics. CABI Publishing, Oxon, pp 21–28Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gobster PH (2001b) Visions of nature: conflict and compatibility in urban park restoration. Landscape Urban Plann 56:35–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gobster PH, Nassauer JI, Daniel TC (2005) Landscape aesthetics: what’s ecology got to do with it? In: Lange E, Miller D (eds) Proceedings of our shared landscape: integrating ecological, socio-economic and aesthetic aspects in landscape planning and management. Ascona, Switzerland, May 2–May 6, 2005. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, pp 42–44Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hill, D., Daniel, TC (in press) Foundations for an ecological aesthetic: can information alter landscape preferences? Soc Nat ResGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Nassauer JI (1992) The appearance of ecological systems as a matter of policy. Landsc Ecol 6:239–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Nassauer JI (1993) Ecological function and the perception of suburban residential landscapes. In: Gobster PH (ed) Managing urban and high use recreation settings, Gen Tech Rep NC-163, USDA Forest Service North Central For Exp Stn, St. Paul, pp 55–60Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nassauer JI (1995a) Messy ecosystems, orderly frames. Landsc J 14:161–170Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Nassauer JI (1995b) Culture and changing landscape structure. Landsc Ecol 10:229–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Nassauer JI (1997) Cultural sustainability: aligning aesthetics and ecology. In: Nassauer JI (ed) Placing nature: culture and landscape ecology. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 65–83Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ode ÅK, Fry G (2002) Visual aspects in urban woodland management. Urban For Urban Greening 1:15–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Palang H, Fry G (eds) (2003) Landscape interfaces: cultural heritage in changing landscapes. Landscape Series, vol 1. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Parsons R, Daniel TC (2002) Good looking: in defense of scenic landscape aesthetics. Landsc Urban Plann 60:43–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tveit M, Ode Å, Fry G (2006) Key concepts in a framework for analysing visual landscape character. Landsc Res 31:229–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul H. Gobster
    • 1
  • Joan I. Nassauer
    • 2
  • Terry C. Daniel
    • 3
  • Gary Fry
    • 4
  1. 1.U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research StationEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Landscape Architecture and Spatial PlanningNorwegian University of Life SciencesAasNorway

Personalised recommendations