Landscape ecology. Do we learn from our doing?

Authors and Affiliations: 

Jiménez Martínez, G. (1), Dramstad, W.E. (1), Loupa Ramos, I. (2)

1 : Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), Ås, Norway
2: CESUR – Centre of Urban and Regional Systems, IST – Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Corresponding author: 
W.E. Dramstad

Authors working in different disciplines have pointed to the existence of both a science – policy, and also a science – practice gap (McNie, 2007, Dramstad and Fjellstad, 2011, Bastian and Steinhardt, 2013). IALE promotes the provision of landscape ecological knowledge which is applicable by practitioners and contributes to solve challenges in real landscape scenarios (IALE, 2009). Explicitly, the mission statement of IALE reads; “…IALE aims to develop landscape ecology as the scientific basis for the analysis, planning and management of the landscapes of the world.” However, also within landscape ecology, the discrepancy between scientific research and applicable knowledge for practitioners and policy makers have been discussed (e.g. Opdam et al., 2001, Wu and Hobbs, 2002, Gardner et al. 2008, Metzger, 2008, Gutzwiller, 2011).

In the study presented here we looked for examples of practical applications of scientific landscape ecological findings in landscape design and planning. Case studies of applied landscape ecology may not necessarily be in the format of scientific studies, however, nor may scientific publication be a key objective or important output in the planning and design process. We thus considered it less likely to find the examples we were looking for published in scientific journals.

Instead we hypothesized that examples of applied landscape ecology might more commonly be presented at conferences, and thus available through the conference proceedings. Having first defined what we meant by “application” in this context, we conducted our study as a review of proceedings from IALE-UK meetings and conferences. Preliminary results were presented at the IALE 2015 world conference in Portland using an interactive poster session, and discussing findings with participants.

We did find examples of practical applications; but they were fewer than anticipated. Further, in our discussions in Portland, while some participants did agree to the importance of transferring their scientific findings into “real world application”, there were also those not considering this as very important. Also the costs involved were forwarded as an issue in this context.

While there may be other journals, conferences etc. where examples are published and documented, based on our results we will at least claim that they are not easily found nor very accessible. In our perspective this is unfortunate. It makes it difficult for those new to the field to find good illustrative examples, useful e.g. to convince project owners. It also hinders the “learning by doing” effect, in particular when it comes to finding creative, well-functioning solutions. Also based on the discussion with participants, we suggest that there is a need to focus on ensuring a higher accessibility and finding a more practitioner-friendly way of communicating scientific findings in the field of landscape ecology, which has to go beyond the traditional conference and peer-reviewed paper format.


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