ialeUK: advocating for landscape ecology across the UK
By Dr Chris Young, Committee Member of ialeUK
What is landscape ecology?
Landscape ecology can be defined as “the study of interactions, across space and time, between the structure and function of physical, biological and cultural components of landscapes; marine, freshwater, and on land.” As such it focuses on the wider landscape, exploring how it fits together (see figure 1) and operates at different scales and importantly at scales above the site level.
What is ialeUK?
ialeUK is the main forum for landscape ecology in the UK and is part of a wider and active global landscape ecology community. It is a not-for-profit membership organisation run by a volunteer committee and it actively recruits and engages members from science, policy and practice who have an interest in landscape ecology. ialeUK was founded on 22 September 1992 at a meeting at Nottingham University entitled, Landscape Ecology in Britain and so reflected increasing interest in and understanding of larger-scale patterns and processes. Since its inception as a distinct Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology it has promoted landscape ecology as a discipline within the UK and beyond.
The core aims of ialeUK are:
- To promote interest, learning and understanding of landscape ecology
- To promote inter-disciplinary research across the many fields in landscape ecology
- To encourage communication between scientists, policy makers, planners and practitioners concerned with landscape ecology.
This is achieved through:
- Organising conferences (see Table 1), seminars and workshops with partner organisations to stimulate exchange of information and debate between scientists, policy makers, planners and practitioners concerned with landscape ecology
- Promoting the principles of landscape ecology and their application
- Acting as a source of information on landscape ecology in the UK
- Fostering the next generation of landscape ecologists
- Contributing to and gaining from working with the International Association for Landscape Ecology.
Our vision is that we wish to see:
- Research in the UK furthering knowledge of landscape ecology
- Legislation, policies, regulations, incentives and best practice being informed by landscape ecology.
- Those with an interest in protecting, planning, or managing land, water or associated ecosystem goods and services share a good understanding of landscape ecology.
ialeUK as a home for landscape ecologists
Although these are the formal outlines of what ialeUK is and does, what our research has shown (Young et al., 2020) is that the particular strength of ialeUK has been in both creating a welcoming and encouraging environment and also helping to develop younger researchers. Landscape ecologists rarely work in environments with other landscape ecologists, so having opportunities to meet and discuss face-to-face or online is important in feeling part of a wider professional community. The message certainly being – you are not alone!
Are you a landscape ecologist?
Are you then a landscape ecologist? If you are reading this, the answer is likely to be ‘yes’. In fact, our experience has shown us that almost everyone working in ‘the environment’ is a landscape ecologist in some form…they just don’t know it! For example, a lot of the traditional practice of landscape ecology is exploring connectivity and fragmentation in some form, aspects which lie at the heart of much nature conservation and restoration globally. Reducing fragmentation and finding practical solutions to restoring connectivity where it is lost (e.g. planting hedgerows, expanding habitats, rewilding) are all inherently landscape ecological and reflect the practice element in what ialeUK stands for.
For those who have ever looked up and noticed the line of trees, the hedgerow, the patterns/colours in different fields, the block of woodland, the way wildlife moves along rivers, the patches of green in cities etc. (see plate 1) you are all landscape ecologists. For countryside professionals these patterns are central to what you do and what you experience and it is providing the formal context for understanding all this which makes landscape ecology what it is.
So next time you are enjoying the view somewhere – by all means enjoy the aesthetics (also an area of landscape ecology) but just give a minute or two to consider the patterns you see and how people and wildlife can fit into these. In doing that you are a landscape ecologist and ialeUK could be the organisation for you.
References and Links
Lawton, J.H., Brotherton, P.N.M., Brown, V.K., Elphick, C., Fitter, A.H., Forshaw, J., Haddow, R.W., Hilborne, S., Leafe, R.N., Mace, G.M., Southgate, M.P., Sutherland, W.J., Tew, T.E., Varley, J., & Wynne, G.R. (2010) Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological network. Report to Defra
Young, C., Bellamy, C., Burton, V., Griffiths, G., Metzger, M.J., Neumann, J., Porter, J. and Millington, J.D.A. (2020) UK Landscape Ecology: Trends and perspectives from the first 25 Years of ialeUK. Landscape Ecology, 35(1), pp. 11-22. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-019-00945-1.
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