17 November 2017

The Role of Geographical Landscape Studies for Sustainable Territorial Planning

A paper I co-authored with several colleagues under Iván Franch-Pardo discussing the role of different methods of geographic landscape delineation in territorial planning was just published in the open-access journal Sustainability. The paper examines the approach to landscape mapping and evaluation in five different methodologies situated along a gradient from predominantly physical to predominantly social (but still rooted in an epistemological approach that emphasizes material factors), and assesses how they contribute to territorial planning for "sustainability."
The Role of Geographical Landscape Studies for Sustainable Territorial Planning

Iván Franch-Pardo, Brian M. Napoletano, Gerardo Bocco, Sara Barrasa and Luis Cancer-Pomar

Sustainability 2017 9(11): 2123

One of the primary objectives of physical geography is to determine how natural phenomena produce specific territorial patterns. Therefore, physical geography offers substantial scientific input into territorial planning for sustainability. A key area where physical geography can contribute to land management is in the delimitation of landscape units. Such units are fundamental to formal socio-economic zoning and management in territorial planning. However, numerous methodologies—based on widely varying criteria—exist to delineate and map landscapes. We have selected five consolidated methodologies with current applications for mapping the landscape to analyse the different role of physical geography in each: (1) geomorphological landscape maps based on landforms; (2) geosystemic landscape maps; (3) Landscape Character Assessment; (4) landscape studies based on visual landscape units; (5) landscape image-pair test. We maintain that none of these methodologies are universally applicable, but that each contributes important insights into landscape analysis for land management within particular biogeophysical and social contexts. This work is intended to demonstrate that physical geography is ubiquitous in contemporary landscape studies intended to facilitate sustainable territorial planning, but that the role it plays varies substantially with the criteria prioritized.

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