Landscape Design

Integrating Societal Values and Biological Goals

Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) is using landscape design to update their biological planning. Landscape design is a relatively new concept in the scientific literature that stems from the field of landscape ecology. But what does landscape design mean? Landscape design integrates societal goals and values with biological goals, using science grounded in landscape ecology to describe future scenarios where specific and measurable biological goals can be attained.

Landscape design has been described as the bridge between the study of pattern and process in landscape ecology and the delivery of conservation actions (Nassauer and Opdam 2008). Some scientists describe it as intentionally changing landscape patterns to provide ecosystem services while explicitly integrating societal needs and values (Nassauer and Opdam 2008). Others emphasize that design should focus on using ecological principles to create multifunctional landscapes that provide a range of environmental, social and economic functions while considering the interests of landowners (Lovell and Johnston 2009). In either case, landscape design specifically acknowledges the need to do ecologically-based conservation with humans as an integral component of the system. Practically speaking, landscape design means that we consider society in our planning and break out of our biology-only box.

Landscape design is a natural fit for PLJV given our emphasis on both landscape scale biological planning and social science. We have specialized in biologically-based spatial decision support tools and are increasing our emphasis on social science to understand what drives landowners in the region to make conservation decisions. However, these two areas, while informing each other, have not been formally integrated. With landscape design, we will use the information from social science, such as landowner focus groups, to inform conservation plans resulting in more successful conservation actions.

Landscape design is not a static product but a repeatable process to address current and impending issues — issues such as wind energy, climate change and tillage risk. It is a way to engage the Joint Venture partnership in answering questions and informing how we implement wildlife conservation.

More Information

For more information on PLJV’s use of landscape design, browse the links below or contact Anne Bartuszevige, PLJV Conservation Science Director, at 303-927-0777.


Literature Cited
Game, E. T., P. Kareiva, and H. P. Possingham. 2012. Six common mistakes in conservation priority setting. Conservation Biology 27:480-485.

Lovell, S. T. and D. M. Johnston. 2009. Creating multi-functional landscapes: how can the field of ecology inform the design of the landscape? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7:212-220.

Nassauer, J. I. and P. Opdam. 2008. Design in science: extending the landscape design paradigm. Landscape Ecology 23:633-644.