Latest Special Issue

Volume 36, issue 8, August 2021

Title: Special Issue: Landscape ecology reaching out

Issue editors: Felix Kienast, Gretchen Walters & Matthias Bürgi


When Troll coined the term “landscape ecology” in the 1930s (Haber 2004), the field was established as a broad, interdisciplinary field, and landscape ecologists have been collaborating intensively with researchers from neighboring fields ever since. These disciplines associated with landscape ecology have benefited strongly from the spatial concepts of landscape research and from its systemic approach. Conversely, landscape ecology has also benefitted from this interdisciplinary exchange. For example, it would never have been possible for landscape ecology to deepen sufficiently the understanding of the role of landscapes for establishing a bond with a place without collaborating with social scientists and psychologists.

In this editorial we describe important fields and technologies, which have over the course of decades contributed to landscape ecology or are still enriching the field. We refer to the resulting impetuses for the development of landscape ecology as “stimuli”. They are selected based on the authors’ broad understanding of landscape ecology. These stimuli provide a context for the contributions of this special issue, attributing them to one another of the neighboring fields. In other words, each paper helps demonstrate the inspiring interlinkages between landscape ecology and neighboring fields. Landscape ecology today encompasses a dazzling array of topics, approaches, collaborations, which on the one hand is exciting, but on the other hand raises the question of the common denominator, the common ground that distinguishes landscape ecology from other fields. What unites all these approaches as a field of study and ensures that they do not appear to be arbitrarily thrown together? We feel that the papers listed in the present special issue are suited to explore the diversity and richness of inspiring interdisciplinary collaboration, and showcase niches where landscape ecology “reaches out” while staying grounded in its rich disciplinary heritage. Under no circumstance, can the papers claim to represent the field comprehensively; nonetheless, they permit readers to explore how landscape ecology exchanges with, borrow from, and contributes to neighboring fields. Obvious gaps will be discussed in the following section—but of course the selection, as well as the references to gaps, reflect our own views and thematic positions in the broad field of landscape ecology. Had other editors compiled this special issue, other contributions would likely have been selected.

For the selection presented here, we consulted the congress proceedings of recent IALE conferences, requested contributions from our community, and received acceptances as well as rejections. COVID-19 also had a hand in this venture: some contributions had to be withdrawn due to an overload of online teaching or personal challenges. We especially regret that we were not able to receive contributions from the eminently important sister discipline landscape architecture as well as a paper illustrating the role and relevance of landscape ecology in climate change adaptation. There are traditional interlinkages such as the “pattern and process” stimulus that has become an intrinsic topic of landscape ecology but also the link with the social sciences. The latter is an example of a significant way that landscape ecology has evolved by including people as decision-makers, and so considering how those decisions transform landscapes. This inclusion, as necessitated by sustainability science, changes the way landscape ecology engages the social and even political sciences (see Wu 2021, this issue).

Please click here to read the editorial