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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2010



Landscapes are diverse, complex, beautiful, and inspirational. Spatial heterogeneity is the most salient feature that characterizes all landscapes. While the physical environment exhibits various spatial patterns on different scales, biological organisms are organized into populations and communities across landscapes. Like other biological organisms, humans live and act on landscapes, and thus have influenced, and been influenced by, landscapes. Unlike other biological organisms, however, humans represent an unparalleled force that has profoundly altered the structure and function of landscapes and even the entire biosphere. A number of worldwide environmental problems, such as land degradation, biodiversity loss, and global climate change, clearly attest to this destructive power of anthropogenic activities. Most, if not all, of the pressing ecological and environmental problems that humanity is faced with today are directly related to human alterations of landscapes. In most cases, humans strive to increase their appropriation of ecosystem goods and services from landscapes while compromising the abilities of ecosystems to perform other functionalities and resulting in serious ecological and socioeconomic consequences. Thus, landscape ecology is essential not only for understanding how Nature works in spatially heterogeneous environments, but also for providing practical guidelines and solutions for maintaining and developing sustainable landscapes.

Landscape ecology has made tremendous progress in theory and practice in recent decades. In the same time, as a rapidly developing discipline it is faced with new problems and challenges.