Cultural Landscape and Biodiversity

Categories: BiodiversityNature

A cultural landscape is a piece of land that possesses natural and cultural resources related to an historic event, person, or group of people. They are usually man-made lexis of relationships with the nature and/or society or culture. These can include grand estates, public gardens and parks, educational institutions, cemeteries, highways, and industrial sites. Cultural landscapes are also humanist works of art, texts and narratives of cultures that express regional and cultural identity.

They also present relationship to their ecological perspective.

Human activities have turned out to be a major cause of shaping most cultivated landscapes on the surface of Earth. Human, animal and machine labor expended in using the land can create outstanding cultural landscapes with high aesthetic, cultural and ecological value such as the paddy-field rice terraces of south-east Asia, but may as well result in land degradation as is the case in some regions in the Mediterranean.

The distribution of landforms such as steep slopes, fertile plains, inundated valleys in a landscape sets the frame for land use by determining factors such as accessibility, water and nutrient availability, but may over long periods of time also be changed through land use.

Get quality help now
Sweet V
Sweet V
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Biodiversity

star star star star 4.9 (984)

“ Ok, let me say I’m extremely satisfy with the result while it was a last minute thing. I really enjoy the effort put in. ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

On the other hand, land use serves distinct socio-economic purposes: land may supply materials and energy through hunting, agriculture or forestry, it may host infrastructure, or it may be needed to absorb waste and emissions (Haberl et al., 2004). Landscapes can be seen as the contingent and historically variable outcome of this interplay between socio-economic and biophysical forces.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

During the evolution of cultural landscapes throughout the world, humans have developed adaptive land-use techniques and created specific patterns of fields, farmsteads, remnant woodlots and the like that depended on both natural and socio-economic conditions.

In European agricultural landscapes, the long history of land transformation has led to regionally distinct regular patterns of geometrically arranged landscape elements, reflecting the historical and cultural background of the prevailing land-use system of a region (Bell, 1999). The spatial distribution of ecotopes, the so-called landscape structure, has therefore often been regarded as a mosaic of ‘frozen processes’; i. e. landscape structure assumedly mirrors the processes which had been going on in a landscape.

This perception has even become a central paradigm in modern landscape ecology. While many ecosystem processes are difficult to observe directly, landscape structure can be derived from mapping as well as from remote-sensing data; therefore, landscape structure was often not only used to evaluate the ecological value of landscapes, but also to judge ecological aspects of the sustainability of land-use patterns (Wrbka et al. , 1999b). The Influence Of Land Form On The Intensity Of Land Use Cultural landscapes have, in contrast to natural and semi-natural landscapes, special characteristics.

The disturbance regime as well as the major material and energy fluxes in these transformed landscapes is controlled to a large extent by humans. This is done by the different land-use practices applied for meadows, arable land or forests. Decisions about land use are made according to the local agro-ecological characteristics which are nested in a hierarchy of social, economical and technical constraints. Cultural landscapes can thus only be understood by analyzing the interplay between biophysical and socioeconomic patterns and processes. Landscape Structure And Intensity Of Land Use Odum and Turner (1989) found that the landscape elements of the Georgia landscape in the early 1930s had a higher fractal dimension than the elements of the same region in the 1980s. During the same period of time the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other agrochemicals increased dramatically. This illustrates that the growing human impact on the land may result in a landscape with decreasing geometrical complexity. Human activities introduce rectangularity and rectilinearity into landscapes, producing regular shapes with straight borders (Forman, 1999; Forman and Moore, 1992).

Various studies suggest that the rate of landscape transformation is a function of land-use intensity (Alard and Poudevigne, 1999; Hietala-Koivu, 1999; Mander et al. , 1999; Odum and Turner, 1989), and that the geometric complexity of a landscape in particular decreases with increasing land-use intensity accompanied by a decrease of habitat heterogeneity and an increase of production units. Applying the thermodynamic laws to landscape structure, Forman and Moore (1992) suggested that the concentrated input of energy (e. g., by tractor ploughing, plant production, wildfire) decreases the entropy of patches compared to adjacent areas and produces straight and abrupt boundaries. In other words, energy is required to convert natural curvilinear boundaries into straight lines and energy is required to maintain them. The reduction of the energy input increases entropy and revegetation convolutes and softens landscape boundaries. This means that the ‘landscape structure’, in the sense of Forman and Godron (1986), can be regarded as ‘frozen processes’.

Landscape Structure And Biodiversity

Many surveys show that species richness of vascular plants and bryophytes normally decreases with land-use intensity (Luoto, 2000; Mander et al. , 1999; Zechmeister and Moser, 2001; Zechmeister et al. , 2003). As the link between landscape structure and land-use intensity could be established, shape complexity as a measure of land-use intensity seems to be also a good predictor of species richness (Moser et al. , 2002; Wrbka et al. , 1999a). Accordingly, higher species richness in areas with high LD and richness values can be expected.

The use of shape complexity indices as indicators for plant species richness is based on an assumed correlation between geometric landscape complexity and biodiversity (Moser et al. , 2002). Obviously, this correlation is not mechanistic but it is supposed to be due to congruent effects of land-use intensity on landscape shape complexity and species richness. Moser et al. (2002) gives a good literature overview about the driving factors responsible for the decrease of landscape complexity with increasing land-use intensity, which resulted in the following key findings:

  • The majority of landscape elements in agricultural landscapes are designed by humans as rectangles with straight and distinct boundaries (Forman, 1999).
  • Outside boundaries of semi-natural or natural patches are straightened by neighboring cultivated areas ().
  • Increasing land-use intensity is accompanied by a decrease of semi-natural and natural areas (Alard and Poudevigne, 1999; Mander et al. , 1999), resulting in a decrease of natural curvilinear boundaries.
  • Intensification in agriculture tends to increase the size of production units (Alard and Poudevigne, 1999; Hietala-Koivu, 1999).

In addition to that intensification of land use on the production unit, e. g. , by fertilizing or increased mowing intensity, also leads to a dramatic decrease of the species richness (Zechmeister et al. , 2003). The description of the degradation of semi-natural and agricultural landscapes shows clearly the interdependence of biodiversity and landscape heterogeneity, induced by closely interwoven ecological, demographical, socio-economic and cultural factors.

For an effective conservation management of biodiversity and landscape eco-diversity, a clear understanding of the ecological and cultural processes and their perturbations is essential. Intermediate disturbance levels lead to a highly complex and diverse cultural landscape which can host many plant and animal species. Landscapes, with ‘eco-diversity hotspots’, can be regarded as hint for ‘biodiversity hotspots’. Landscape pattern indicators therefore play an important role for landscape conservation planning. The understanding of landscape processes is crucial for the conservation of both, landscape eco-diversity and biodiversity.


From a conservation biology point of view, the ongoing process of genetic erosion and biodiversity loss as well as the replacement of specific recognizable cultural landscapes by monotonous ubiquistic production sites will continue. The biophysical characteristics and natural constraints of the investigated landscapes are interwoven with the regional historic and socio-economical development. This interplay is the background for the development of a variety of cultural landscapes which have their own specific characteristics. Geo-ecological land-units provide one solution. This is of special importance when the relationship of landscape patterns and underlying processes is under investigation.

Works Cited

  1. Alard, D. , Poudevigne, I. Factors controlling plant diversity in rural landscapes: a functional approach. Landscape and Urban Planning, 1999: 46, 29–39
  2. Bell, S. , Landscape—Pattern, Perception and Process. E. &F. N. Spon, London, 1999
  3. Forman, R. T. T. , & Godron, M. Landscape Ecology. Wiley, New York, 1986. F
  4. orman, R. T. T. , & Moore, P. N. Theoretical foundations for understanding boundaries in landscape mosaics. In: Hansen, F. J. , Castri, F. (Eds. ), Landscape Boundaries. Consequences for Biotic Diversity and Ecological Flows. Springer, New York, 1992, pp. 236–258.
  5. Forman, R. T. T. Horizontal processes, roads, suburbs, societal objectives in landscape ecology. In: Klopatek, M. , Gardner, R. H. (Eds. ), Landscape Ecological Analysis: Issues and Applications. Springer, New York, 1999, pp. 35–53.
  6. Haberl, H. , Wackernagel, M. , Krausmann, F. , Erb, K. -H. , Monfreda, C. Ecological footprints and human appropriation of net primary production: A comparison. Land Use Policy, doi:10. 1016/ j. landusepol. 2003. 10. 008. , 2004
  7. Hietala-Koivu, R. Agricultural landscape change: a case study in Y lane, Southwest Finland. Landscape and Urban Planning , 1999: 46, 103–108.
  8. Luoto, M.. Modelling of rare plant species richness by landscape variables in an agriculture area in Finland. Plant Ecology , 2000: 149, 157–168.
  9. Mander, U. , Mikk, M. , Ku. lvik, M.. Ecological and low intensity agriculture as contributors to landscape and biological diversity. Landscape and Urban Planning , 1999: 46, 169–177.
Cite this page

Cultural Landscape and Biodiversity. (2016, Sep 02). Retrieved from

Cultural Landscape and Biodiversity

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment