Enhancing natural resource management has been a focus of landscape ecology since its inception, but numerous authors argue that landscape ecology has not yet been effective in achieving the underlying goal of planning and designing sustainable landscapes. We developed nine questions reflecting the application of fundamental research topics in landscape ecology to the landscape planning process and reviewed two recent landscape-scale plans in western North America for evidence of these concepts in plan decisions. Both plans considered multiple resources, uses, and values, including energy development, recreation, conservation, and protection of cultural and historic resources. We found that land use change and multiscale perspectives of resource uses and values were very often apparent in planning decisions. Pattern-process relationships, connectivity and fragmentation, ecosystem services, landscape history, and climate change were reflected less frequently. Landscape sustainability was considered only once in the 295 decisions reviewed, and outputs of landscape models were not referenced. We suggest six actionable opportunities for further integrating landscape ecology concepts into landscape planning efforts: 1) use landscape sustainability as an overarching goal, 2) adopt a broad ecosystem services framework, 3) explore the role of landscape history more comprehensively, 4) regularly consider and accommodate potential effects of climate change, 5) use landscape models to support plan decisions, and 6) promote a greater presence of landscape ecologists within agencies that manage large land bases and encourage active involvement in agency planning efforts. Together these actions may improve the defensibility, durability, and sustainability of landscape plan decisions.
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The authors thank Sara Gagne for the invitation to write this manuscript. The authors also thank Todd Esque for providing additional information on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, and two reviewers for strengthening our manuscript. S. Carter received funding from the National Operations Center of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under interagency agreements L16PG00147 and L15PG00136.
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Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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