Principles of ecological landscape design

Principles of ecological landscape design

Principles of ecological landscape design

Principles of ecological landscape design is a species-specific approach to planning and design. It is concerned with planning and designing for biodiversity by working at a landscape level. It is derived from the work of Douglas T. Chadwick on species-specific habitat. The principles are listed in these three broad categories:

Indirect effects, often termed non-direct or indirect effects.

Local (across-habitat) effects.

Species-specific effects.


The Principles for a (compatible) landscape design are:



Food chain

Self-maintaining landscapes.

The three broad categories are:

Indirect effects, often termed non-direct or indirect effects

Local (across-habitat) effects

Species-specific effects.

Indirect effects

Indirect effects are environmental effects on the landscape from an ecological system which are not actually connected with an interaction between any species and any particular part of the ecosystem but have an effect nevertheless. These can be subdivided into:

Detrimental effects. These are effects which degrade and limit the benefits for an ecosystem.

Compensatory effects. These are effects which compensate for detrimental effects but which have less desirable implications for the ecosystem.


The principles of ecological landscape design involve the integration of the three levels of the ecosystem (i.e. organisms, populations and communities) into the "landscape" and its larger surroundings. The landscape design (or planning) incorporates the effects of the elements within it, with the plan being the element of the whole which is applied to the landscape. The "landscape" or "pattern of land use" is the visual pattern that results from the plan. The "landscape" or "pattern of land use" is the visual pattern that results from the plan. The landscape pattern can be classified into the following types:

Manmade: an artificial or non-natural landscape, the plan is the element of the whole.

Natural: a habitat or an ecosystem, the plan is the element of the whole.

Biological: an organism or a population, the plan is the element of the whole.

Natural (non-artificial) landscape

An ecological landscape design uses the natural landscape or the natural environment for the expression of its ecological plans and principles. In the "natural" or "naturalistic" design of landscapes the organization of habitat is directed by the ecological planning for the species that live there. For example, a grassland requires different planning and design to a woodland. The natural landscape is being designed to meet the needs and requirements of a plant community. This involves knowledge of how each plant, or set of plants, use the existing resources and structure of the landscape. A species of plant may be important to the functioning of the ecosystem, but it will not be able to persist or thrive in any landscape which is different from the one in which it evolved. So an ecological landscape design for a grassland will be different from the design for woodland or for a riparian area.

Landscape Ecology

Landscape ecology (or landscape ecology) is a field of ecology that studies the spatial organization of biological communities and the processes affecting them, and the interactions between them. It is concerned with the "landscape", or the properties of the whole ecosystem.

The aim of landscape ecology is to understand the complex processes that occur within ecosystems and to explain how and why particular habitats occur and grow at particular locations.

Ecological landscape planning and design (formerly ecological planning)

Ecological landscape planning and design (or ecological planning) was developed by W.J.C. Dobson and initially developed at Scotland's Carnegie Institute.

Ecological landscape planning is the first level in the planning and design of the ecological landscape. This consists of:

1. An introduction to the principles of ecological planning for an area and how they can be applied.

2. An introduction to the elements of a successful ecological plan.

3. An introduction to the components of the landscape design.

4. An outline of the theory and application of ecological planning.

5. Applications of ecological planning to specific situations.

Ecological landscape design (formerly ecological planning)

Ecological landscape design (or ecological planning) is a level above the ecological landscape planning level. This is a more detailed planning for specific sites or areas. The main steps are:

1. An analysis of the site: this includes an analysis of the site’s accessibility, its opportunities and its requirements for ecological planning. The areas to be taken into account are the physical, environmental, cultural and social.

2. An analysis of the surrounding landscape: the surrounding landscape may be natural, semi-natural, built or transitional. The landscape is analysed for the effects of a wide range of activities in this area on the effects within the site.

3. An analysis of the site’s history: this involves an analysis of the history of the site. Where there are significant events, such as a quarry, within the site or its surrounding landscape, they must be considered. The history of the site may provide a historical framework for the design.

4. A strategy: This involves a consideration of the objectives of the plan. These are expressed as a map of how the landscape would be transformed if the plan is carried out.

5. Development of the plan: This involves development of a plan which meets the site’s objectives, or as closely as possible, meets the needs of the site and its surrounding landscape. This requires an understanding of the ecological needs of the species.

This will then be divided into the different functional elements that the plan must take into account, including:

Breeding populations.

Recruits (offspring).


Large organisms.


The principles of ecological planning are, in principle, the same as those of ecological landscape design, with the difference being that ecological planning is directed at the site as a whole, while ecological landscape design is directed at specific areas of the site or the site as a whole.

Landscape level principles


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