Managing and monitoring human impacts on landscapes for environmental change and sustainability

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Dec 12, 2015
Paul F. Hudson and Matthew C. LaFevor


Understanding the impacts of human activities on landscapes has long been important to environmental scientists and management (Marsh, 1864 ;  Goudie, 1981), but has never been more pressing than today. Broad scientific engagement with the subject of climate change since the early 1990s has resulted in a new appreciation for understanding landscape sensitivity to environmental change (Turner et al., 1990). This is essential, for against forecasted average changes in climate at a global scale is great variability in temperature and precipitation at regional and seasonal scales (e.g., IPCC, 2007). Additionally, the past couple of decades have witnessed a paradigm change in landscape contextualization. Scientists no longer singularly uphold the idea of a pristine environmental base-line for restoration purposes, as natural landscapes untouched by human presence are unlikely to have existed (Turner et al., 1990; Vitousek et al., 1997 ;  Zalasiewicz et al., 2011). The coupling of these two concepts implies that decision makers and land managers must understand the historic environmental context and inherent sensitivity of landscapes to implement effective strategies to defend and mitigate against anticipated climate change. These topics steered the direction of this special issue, which examines human impacts on landscapes from two perspectives, specifically i) managing the environmental impacts of human actions, and ii) monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of these efforts. The first seeks to better understand the historic controls and processes that led to environmental change in order to develop appropriate responses or remedial measures. The second explores processes of environmental monitoring and assessment that are, ideally, guided by previous analyses and cumulative understanding of environmental cause and effect. Analysis and response to degradation are synergistic in their effects – better understanding of root causes informs management strategies. Subsequently, periodic review and re-assessment of these strategies serves to strengthen future efforts and the empirical foundations upon which sound decision making is based. The latter approach is increasingly included within new “integrated” approaches to environmental management, and is explicitly included in the European Union's sweeping Water Framework Directive (European Council, 2000) . . .


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Read the full article in the Journal of Environmental Management.

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