Applying landscape ecological concepts and metrics in sustainable landscape planning

It is increasingly recognized that more sustainable approaches are needed for planning and managing landscapes worldwide. New tools are needed to effectively apply sustainable principles to planning and management. The spatial dimension of sustainability engages processes and relations between different land uses, ecosystems and biotopes at different scales, and over time. Therefore, ecological knowledge is essential when planning for sustainability. The paper briefly reviews the historical role of ecology in planning, and ecological planning and management theories and methodologies. Building on existing ecological planning methods, we have developed a conceptual framework for sustainable landscape planning applying landscape ecological concepts and exploring the multiple potential roles of landscape metrics as ecological planning tools. We argue for a common framework that applies ecological knowledge in land planning, applicable to all physical planning activities. We believe this framework represents a significant contribution to increase the acceptance and use of ecological knowledge across the horizontal sectors planning, and to enhance communication between planners, thus contributing to an increased scientific and cultural consensus for sustainable landscape planning. Numerous quantitative metrics have emerged from landscape ecology that are useful for applying landscape ecology concepts to sustainable landscape planning. These metrics are essential tools to address the spatial dimension of sustainability in a quantitatively rigorous and robust manner. This paper proposes a core (sub)set of metrics, identified through literature reviews, which are understood as the most useful and relevant for landscape planning. A two-part sustainable landscape planning perspective is proposed, integrating horizontal and vertical perspectives. We believe that this dual approach can help to structure and clarify why, where, how and which landscape ecological principles and metrics can most effectively assist planning. We include a demonstration of this approach in the Mill River Watershed, USA. We argue that proper and informed use of landscape metrics will contribute to advance landscape planning theory and practice towards the goal of sustainability.
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