Natural landscape

Natural landscape

A natural landscape is a landscape that is unaffected by human activity.[1] A natural landscape is intact when all living and nonliving elements are free to move and change.[2] The nonliving elements distinguish a natural landscape from a wilderness. A wilderness includes areas within which natural processes operate without human interference, but a wilderness must contain life. As implied, a natural landscape may contain either the living or nonliving or both. In his extensive travels in South America, Alexander von Humbolt[3] became the first to conceptualize a natural landscape.[4] Some have described a transition of a pristine landscape state to a humanized landscape state—which includes the human-modified landscape, the primeval landscape, the ancient landscape, the undisturbed wilderness and the managed landscape.[5] The natural landscape is a place under the current control of natural forces and free of the control of people for an extended period of time.

"For here the natural landscape is eloquent of the interplay of forces that have created it. It is spread before us like the pages of an open book...", Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, 1962.


History of natural landscape

No place on earth is unaffected by people and our culture. However, there is no place on earth that cannot return to natural landscape if abandoned by culture. People are part of biodiversity, but people exert forces on biodiversity, which destroy the natural landscape. Terms such as semi-natural are used to describe landscapes with both cultural and natural features. People have altered landscape to such an extent that few places on earth remain pristine. Being pristine, though, is not a prerequisite for natural landscape designation. Once abandoned by human influences, the landscape is again under the control of natural processes which accommodate interruptions, resulting in a new variant of the natural landscape.[6]

Examples of cultural forces

Cultural forces are those that, intentionally or unintentionally, influence the landscape.[7] Cultural landscapes are places or artifacts currently maintained by people whether directly or indirectly. Examples of cultural disruptions are: fences, roads, trails, species under human management, invasive species introduced by people, extraction or removal of species and objects, vegetation alteration, alterations of animal populations, natural landscaping, buildings, agricultural areas, pollution, paved areas. Areas that may be confused with natural landscape include parks for people, agricultural areas, orchards, maintained views (use of aesthetic judgments), artificial lakes, managed forests, golf courses, nature center trails, back yards, and flower beds.

The conflict between cultural forces and the natural landscape

For a place to return to the natural landscape, all cultural artifacts attracting people must be removed. Natural landscape is the equilibrium that existed prior to significant human impact. The time necessary for an area to return to the natural landscape depends upon the environment, and it may be termed the period of neglect. Neglect, in this context, means the absence of any management whatsoever. Most people can easily recognize a neglected landscape. Human impact on the natural landscape may result in episodes of extinction of native species, episodes of stalled equilibrium, total species destruction and even the putrification of soil and water.

The case for returning land to the natural landscape has been championed by those who recognize the harm resulting from people’s actions on this planet. Popular movies such as Avatar (2009 film) [2] and Life After People focus on potential natural landscape controls or lack thereof. The return of the natural landscape has been opposed by those who wish to groom the natural landscape or simply to demonstrate that the natural landscape has some practical value.

See also


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