In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Landscape Ecology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Historical Background

Ecology Landscape Ecology
Martin Hermy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 May 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0013


Landscape ecology is well integrated into the discipline of ecology and focuses on the reciprocal interactions between pattern and ecological processes. Despite the fact that these interactions have long been recognized, the term as we know it now did not appear until the first half of the 20th century (see Historical Background). Above all, landscape ecology is broadly interdisciplinary. Although the content gradually changes, landscape ecology is popular and will remain so as long as there is climate change and the global influence of humans. Most of us have an intuitive understanding of the term “landscape.” We think of a piece of land we can view, usually from a prominent point. Typically, it is a changing mixture (a “mosaic”) of land cover units such as farms, arable fields, grasslands, forests, marshes, water bodies, and settlements, which may be highly interconnected or dissected by linear elements such as roads, power lines, hedgerows, and rivers. Organisms—animals and plants—use these landscape elements as refuges, stepping stones, or corridors. The focus of landscape ecology is on the distribution patterns of landscape elements or ecosystems, on the flow of animals, plants, energy, nutrients, and water among them, and thus on the functions of these units and ecological changes in the landscape over time. Initially, research was largely descriptive (e.g., how land cover changed over time) and a lot of energy was invested in the search for suitable landscape metrics. However, it gradually moved more toward functioning in terms of ecological processes and organisms. Almost at the same time, landscape modeling became more prominent; the advent of geo-informatics (e.g., GIS) gave it a spectacular boost. However, the debate on scale—the spatial or temporal dimension of an object or process—remains open. New themes such as landscape genetics (see also the Oxford Bibliographies article on Conservation Genetics) made their way in the late 20th and early 21st centuries with the growing availability of molecular genetic tools, combined with existing or new statistical tools and powerful computers. Until now climate change has received relatively little attention from landscape ecology. Landscape ecology is also becoming increasingly relevant for applied ecological sciences, such as ecological restoration, conservation biology, invasive species biology, and ecosystem management (see the Oxford Bibliographies article on Applied Ecology).

General Overviews

From the early 1980s onward, a number of important textbooks on landscape ecology were published. Naveh and Lieberman 1990 was originally published in 1984 and is the first monograph written in English on this then-new interdisciplinary science, focusing on a unified conceptual and methodological framework, and on examples of tools, methods, and applications, mainly in the context of Mediterranean landscapes. It was quickly followed by the now classic standard textbook Forman and Godron 1986, not only describing landscape principles but also putting a strong emphasis on ecological concepts, landscape structure, landscape dynamics and heterogeneity, and management. This was followed by Forman 1995, stressing the idea that most of the world consists of highly fragmented ecosystems and emphasizing corridors. A more scholarly handbook, Turner, et al. 2001, mainly focuses on what ecologists need to know about landscapes. As a companion to this book, Gergel and Turner 2002 provides a more practical guide to concepts and techniques. An update of landscape ecology issues focusing on disturbance, fragmentation, and spatial pattern is given in Turner 2005. Farina 2006 puts less emphasis on ecology but integrates into a textbook new paradigms, theories, and classic and new methods. In recent years, despite tremendous progress in theory and practice, the diversification of ideas and approaches seems to have caused some confusion among landscape ecologists. A diversity of approaches and perspectives, expressed in Wu and Hobbs 2007, now seems to divide landscape ecology into more specialized disciplines.

  • Farina, Almo. 2006. Principles and methods in landscape ecology: Towards a science of the landscape. 2d ed. Vol. 3. Landscape Series. Berlin: Springer.

    Authoritative textbook summarizing old and new theories, concepts, and methods in landscapes. Important book for both students and scientists and practitioners, covering both theoretical foundations and practical implementation of research on biophysical interactions in landscapes and the techniques of study.

  • Forman, Richard T. T. 1995. Land mosaics: The ecology of landscapes and regions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Clearly related to Forman and Godron 1986, but an even better comprehensive review and synthesis of landscape ecology from many fields and from many geographic locations on issues such as foundations, patches, corridors, mosaic patterns, flows, fragmentation, land planning, and the creation of sustainable environments.

  • Forman, Richard T. T., and Michel Godron. 1986. Landscape ecology. New York: Wiley.

    One of the best books ever published on landscape ecology. A fine work with a wealth of empirical studies, theory, and applications organized in fourteen chapters, for both students and professionals; meant to be understandable for students from a wide range of disciplines. Essential literature.

  • Gergel, Sarah E., and Monica G. Turner, eds. 2002. Learning landscape ecology: A practical guide to concepts and techniques. New York: Springer.

    Ideal companion to Turner, et al. 2001. It is a compendium of twenty contributed chapters from a list of recognized researchers, designed as a laboratory manual and accompanied by a CD-ROM containing necessary program and data files for university students.

  • Naveh, Zev, and Arthur S. Lieberman. 1990. Landscape ecology: Theory and application. New York: Springer-Verlag.

    Originally published in 1984 and the latest student edition in 1994. The book provides a unified conceptual and methodological framework for a field which is both local and global in its implications, and places human activities into the context of ecosystems.

  • Turner, Monica G. 2005. Landscape ecology: What is the state of the science? Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 36:319–344.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.36.102003.152614

    Fine overview showing the rapid growth of landscape ecological research since Turner’s earlier work in 1989, stressing the continued and persistent influence of land-use history and natural disturbance on contemporary ecosystems.

  • Turner, Monica G., Robert H. Gardner, and Robert V. O’Neill. 2001. Landscape ecology in theory and practice: Pattern and process. New York: Springer.

    Explicitly aimed at the student and an excellent teaching and reference book containing a synthesis with chapters on roots of landscape ecology, scale concept, landscape models, causes and quantification of landscape patterns, dynamics of disturbance, organisms and landscape patterns, ecosystem processes in the landscape, and applied aspects and directions.

  • Wu, Jianguo, and Richard R. J. Hobbs, eds. 2007. Key topics in landscape ecology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Contains in-depth reviews of the concepts and methods for investigating landscape patterns and changes, with examples of novel applications. Emphasizes and shows the diversity of approaches and perspectives in landscape ecology in fifteen chapters. Interesting literature for graduate students, academic professionals, and practitioners.

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