Landscapes from an urban perspective
Landscapes represent the cumulative influence of urbanization. It is the scale at which we observe the connectivity among socio-economic, ecological and cultural systems, collectively and respectively. Structurally, landscapes have been assessed to quantify the ecological effects of urbanization—the deforestation, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation and the subsequent effects on species occurrence and distribution and tropic levels. Similarly, novel ecosystems are being created with combinations native and non-native species. Functionally, examples of urbanization effects on ecological processes range from altered productivity and biogeochemical cycles to energy balances and water regimes. These changes are also reflected in altered landscape dynamics such as fire regimes and weather patterns. Collectively, these urban effects have lead to the concept of biotic homogenization.
Similarly, socio-economic systems are identified and quantitatively assessed structurally and functionally at the landscape scale. Similar to ecological properties, urbanization can fragment human communities and neighborhoods, alter economic centers and create novel settlement patterns such as edge cities. For instance, analyses of land-use dynamics at the landscape scale identify market failures and the subsequent effects on socio-economic, cultural and ecological systems. Similarly, landscape analyses have lead to a better understanding of what makes a city resilient to anthropogenic and natural disturbances and traumas.
The assessment of urban landscapes has given rise to a greater understanding of complex socio-ecological systems (SES). Analyses of SES is not new nor associated just with urban landscapes, but have identified the nuances of the interactions between social and ecological systems, thus directly linking humans to ecosystem function and the benefits derived from those functions. For instances, by linking wealth and environmental quality, SES analyses have demonstrated the unequal distribution of resources and species in different portions of a city.
The urban landscape, also, is more than just the cumulative effect of urbanization on socially, economically, and ecologically systems, it is the palate for humanity’s creativity and sustainability through design. Sustainability, and subsequently human well-being, can only be achieved through integrating decision-making in a holistic way across science, policy, management and design practices at the landscape scale.