Humans have clearly caused a high amount of destruction to the environment. Since humanity depends on the environment, scientists have focused on the discipline of landscape ecology and planning, which attempts to achieve a compromise between the needs of nature and the needs of people living in a given area.
Landscape ecology is the study of patterns that determine how plants and animals are distributed. These ecologies give a sense of how ecosystems develop over time and across regions, according to the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. Studies have been conducted in recent years to uncover the distribution of species and how these species interact with the geography and the ecosystem, such as the California Gap Analysis.
Landscape ecology tends to focus only on one area. However, when only one area is covered, the result is a very fragmented ecosystem. Many people would like to have nature nearby, but engage in activities that destroy nature.
Landscape ecology and planning takes the need to protect the environment and also create landscapes that benefit humanity into consideration. Ecologists must understand how people are currently affecting the environment and they must also study what people want from the environment so that there can be a happy balance. Helping people get what they want from nature will discourage individuals and societies from further exploiting nature in a way that causes irrevocable damage, but understanding the needs of nature also allows nature to continually provide for the needs of people, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Nature must also be altered in a way that continually provides opportunities and choices for people, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Landscapes must continually provide resources for humanity, must provide necessary protection to human activities such as wind breaking and flood protection and must serve aesthetic purposes in cases where people must be attracted to the area, such as in instances of tourism.
Messy vs. Neat
Unfortunately, there is often a conflict between humanity and nature. People tend to prefer landscapes that are neat, but nature tends to prefer landscapes that are messy, yet provide many benefits, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. By understanding what nature needs, landscapes can be planned that look appealing while still benefiting nature.
Landscape ecology is not only a concern in more suburban and rural areas but is also considered in urban areas. Urban sprawl tends to completely destroy environments by eliminating most space for the growth of trees and the survival of most animals. Urban areas tend to release wastes that create acid rain or that end up seeping into the soil, harming ecosystems, according to Rutgers University. Landscape ecology planners must not only consider how the environment can become a part of an urban area but must also consider how the growth of urban areas affects the environment, since urban sprawl changes the dynamics of the nearby ecosystems.