Landscape change: can we find a theoretical basis to integrate temporal, spatial and perceptual aspects?

Stiles, R., 2005, Landscape change: can we find a theoretical basis to integrate temporal, spatial and perceptual aspects?, in: ECLAS (D. Oguz), ‘Landscape change’, Department of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Agriculture Ankara University, Ankara

  • Author : Stiles, R.
  • Year : 2005
  • Published in Book : Landscape change
  • Pages : 23-33
  • Abstract in English : Landscape change is an issue of growing interest, not just within the context of the European Landscape Convention, although this has focussed renewed attention on the issue. Questions of landscape change and conservation are all too frequently seen as pragmatic practical issues involving measuring and monitoring, which may or may not be followed by intervention, either at the policy level and/or in terms of practical action. However landscape change also raises a number of central theoretical considerations, which have been insufficiently explored. This paper will attempt to raise some of these issues and to place them in a wider theoretical context. Firstly, before landscapes can change they have to be there in the first place and we have to be able to recognise them as such. But what should the baseline condition be against which we measure change and how can we recognise it? Is there such a thing as landscape change which is more than the sum of the alterations to those elements of which a landscape is composed? While considerable efforts have been made to characterise landscapes, these tend to respond to the needs of the practical requirements of particular situations ‘horses for courses’ rather than to be based on a broadly agreed theoretical foundation. When looking at landscape change our instinctive approach is to interpret the concept in terms of temporal change: ‘things ain’t what they used to be’ rather than to consider change as a spatial phenomenon. Yet in other academic fields concepts of space and time are to some extent interchangeable. In vegetation ecology, for example, the concept of change over time – succession – is closely related to the observation in differences in vegetation plots which are distributed in spatial proximity to one another. Can we draw similar analogies with regard to landscapes; is there such a thing as landscape succession? But landscapes are not quite like vegetation. There existence is recognised as being dependent on their being perceived by humans. It what ways do our changing perceptions interact with landscapes to add a further dimension to landscape change. Can landscapes change just because our interpretation of them alters, even if measuring and monitoring of what is physically ‘out there’ can pick up no activity? The increasingly European dimension to the monitoring of landscape change, in particular in relation to the impacts of Europe-wide policy, calls for a deeper debate on the theoretical aspects of landscape change. This debate must also have a European dimension if all the dimensions of landscape are to be integrated into the approaches we develop, and it needs to be embedded in a much wider matrix of theory.
  • Comments/Notes : KEYWORDS: landscape change; landscape theory; European landscape convention. / Eclas 2005