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

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Dec 12, 2015
Author: 
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) . . .

References:

European Council, Council Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, Official J. Eur. Union, L 327, 22.12.2000.

A. Goudie. The Human Impact; Man's Role in Environmental Change. Basil Blackwell, Oxford (1981).

IPCC. Working Group II contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden, C.E. Hanson (Eds.), Climate Change 2007 – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Cambridge University Press (2007).

G.P. Marsh. Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. Harvard University Press (1864).

B.L., Turner II, W.C. Clark, R.W. Kates, J.F. Richards, J.T. Mathews, W.B. Meyer (Eds.), The Earth as Transformed by Human Action, Cambridge University Press (1990).

P.M. Vitousek, H.A. Mooney, J. Lubchenco, J.M. Melillo. Human domination of Earth's ecosystems. Science, 277 (5325) (1997), pp. 494–499 http://doi.org/10.1126/science.277.5325.494 25 July 1997.

J. Zalasiewicz, M. Williams, A. Haywood, M. Ellis. The Anthropocene: a new epoch of geological time? Philos. Transact. Royal Soc., 369 (2011), pp. 835–841.

Read the full article in the Journal of Environmental Management.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
DOI for citing: 
http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.04.014
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