New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1988) 11: 124- 125

How is anthropic disturbance to be accommodated in landscape ecology and nature conservation?

Conference Abstract
Kevin F. O'Connor  
Simon R. Swaffield  

Significant anthropic disturbance of ecological systems has been increasingly perceived as the discipline of landscape ecology has emerged from varied sources in Europe and North America. In general this perceived significance has arisen from the ambitions of proponents of landscape ecology to develop for actual real-world systems an understanding that took account of each explanatory variable in turn and was at the same time holistic. In part. this increased significance arose from the widespread attempts to contrast natural and cultural landscapes. In part. the increased perception of significance has arisen from the failure to explain supposedly natural landscapes by non- human factors. Such a situation is also found in New Zealand.

Difficulties occur in accommodating anthropic disturbance in any general theory or methodology of landscape ecology, varying with the conception of landscape and especially with the preconception of mankind's separateness from nature or its immersion in it. The advantages which New Zealand may have for such studies and understanding, arising from its comparatively recent human influence, are offset by the complexity of physical landscape processes.

New Zealand initiatives for nature conservation and especially for the protection of natural areas in recent years have had considerable stimulus from conceptual work promoted through the Biological Resources Centre. This work has introduced a role for landscape ecology in the interpreting of ecological districts as a basis for representativeness in nature conservation. At the same time such work has conceived of such district or landscape dimension as those of human habitation, work, and belonging.

This paper examines some of the more critical intellectual and practical issues involved in such approaches where human belonging and disturbing are simultaneously predicated of the same real-world systems. The implications for promotion of conservation and especially of public participation in conservation are examined.