Interdisciplinary interpretations and applications of the concept of scale in landscape research

J Environ Manage. 2012 Dec 30;113:137-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.08.027. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


The spatial dimensions of many social, economic and environmental challenges facing 21st century societies can be addressed through the idea of landscape. The European Landscape Convention--ELC (Council of Europe, 2000--Article 1a) views landscape as representing not simply the environment, but the world "as perceived by people". As a concept, landscape is increasingly understood as uniting the physical, mental, natural and cultural dimensions of human existence; good quality landscapes are thus integral to our well-being. The problems and challenges facing our landscapes require greater understanding of how they function and change, as well as their meanings and values. Scholars working in the area of landscape research have increasingly advocated the need to enhance integrative approaches between the natural, human and applied sciences. However, drawing together the collective insights from across the sciences presents a range of conceptual and methodological issues. The question of scale as it pertains to different scientific realms is a key example of this kind of challenge to integrative approaches. The multi-scale nature of the social, environmental and economic challenges embedded in the landscape demands that scholars address these key issues of scale in their research. The aim of this paper is to review how the concept of scale has been interpreted and applied within the arena of landscape research, focussing specifically on three of the principal disciplinary contributors--ecology/landscape ecology, geography and spatial planning. The objective of this discussion is to synthesise scalar issues that feature within and across these perspectives, to better understand how they impact on the way landscape is conceptualised and thus produced through academic and related policy discourses. It seeks out points of tension as well as convergence when dealing with scale. It reflects on academic, policy and practice-related concerns that would form part of longer-term holistic strategies for landscape protection, planning and management in line with those being advocated by the ELC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecology*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Research