Landscape Functions

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Traditionally, the concept of landscape functions has been considered in the landscape planning system of Germany and German speaking countries. According to that concept, landscape has the following functions:

(1) Production (economic) functions (biomass production, water supply, suitability of nonrenewable resources);

(2) Regulatory (ecological) functions (regulation of mate rial and energy fluxes, hydrological and meteorological functions, regulation and regeneration of populations and bio(geo)coenoses, habitat (genetical) function); (3) Social functions (psychological (esthetic and ethical) functions, information functions, human ecological, and recrea tional functions).

This approach is very similar to the concept of eco system services and natural capital, which has recently gained extensive popularity. According to this concept, the typology of landscape functions includes four cate gories: (1) provisioning functions; (2) regulation functions;

(3) habitat functions; and (4) cultural and amenity func tions (see Table 1).

1. Provisioning functions comprise functions that sup ply 'physical services' in terms of resources or space. This category has been divided into two classes: production and carrier functions. Production functions reflect resources produced by natural ecosystems, for example, the harvesting of fish from the ocean, pharmaceutical products from wild plants and animals, or wood from natural forests. Carrier functions reflect the goods and services that are provided through human manipulation

Table 1 Typology of ecosystem/landscape functions, goods, and services

Biophysical indicators (examples) (i.e.,


ecosystem properties providing the

Goods and services



Short description

goods or service)




Resources from

Biomass (production and stock)




Biochemical properties

Food (e.g., fish, bush meat)



Raw materials (wood,



Use of space to

Depending on the specific land use

Cultivation (e.g.,


(enhance) supply

type, different requirements are

agriculture, plantations,

resources or other

placed on environmental conditions


goods and services

(e.g., soil stability and fertility, air and

Energy conversion (e.g.,

water quality, hydrology, topography,

wind, solar)

climate, geology)

Mining (ore, fossil fuels)

Transportation (esp. on




Direct benefits from

Role of ecosystems in biogeochemical

Climate regulation



cycles (e.g., CO2/O2 balance,

Maintenance of soil fertility


hydrological cycle)

Role of vegetation and biota in removal

Waste treatment (e.g.,

or breakdown of nutrients and toxic

water purification)


Maintenance of air quality

Physical properties of land cover

Water regulation (e.g.,

buffering runoff)

Erosion prevention

Storm protection and flood


Population control through tropic-

Biological control (of pests

dynamic relations

and diseases)




Maintenance of

Presence of rare/endemic species;

Refugium for wildlife


biodiversity and

species diversity


Reproduction habitat for migratory

Nursery function (for



commercial species)


Cultural and

Nonmaterial benefits

Landscape (or ecosystem) properties

Enjoyment of scenery (e.g.,


with esthetic, recreational, historical,

scenic roads)


spiritual, inspirational, scientific, or

Ecotourism and recreation

educational value

Heritage value/cultural


Spiritual or religious sites

Cultural expressions (use of

landscapes as motif in

books, film, painting,

folklore, advertising)

Research and education

Adapted from De Groot RS and Hein L (2007) Concept and valuation of landscape functions at different scales. In: Mander U, Wiggering H, and Helming K (eds.) Multifunctional Land Use. Meeting Future Demands for Landscape Goods and Services, pp. 15 36. Berlin: Springer.

Adapted from De Groot RS and Hein L (2007) Concept and valuation of landscape functions at different scales. In: Mander U, Wiggering H, and Helming K (eds.) Multifunctional Land Use. Meeting Future Demands for Landscape Goods and Services, pp. 15 36. Berlin: Springer.

of natural productivity (e.g., fish from aquaculture or timber from plantations). In these cases, the function offered by nature is the provision of a suitable substrate or space for human activities, including agriculture, mining, transportation, etc.

2. Regulation functions result from the capacity of ecosystems and landscapes to influence ('regulate') cli mate, hydrological and biochemical cycles, Earth surface processes, and a variety of biological processes. These services often have an important spatial (connectivity)

aspect; for example, the flood control function of an upper watershed forest is only relevant in the flood zone downstream of the forest.

3. Habitat functions comprise the importance of ecosystems and landscapes in maintaining natural pro cesses and biodiversity, including the refugium and nursery functions. The refugium function reflects the value of landscape units in providing habitats to (threatened) fauna and flora, and the nursery function indicates that some landscape units provide a particularly suitable location for reproduction and thereby have a regulating impact on the maintenance of populations elsewhere.

4. Cultural and amenity functions relate to the ben efits people obtain from landscapes through recreation, cognitive development, relaxation, and spiritual reflec tion. This may involve actual visits to the area, indirectly enjoying the area (e.g., through nature movies), or gaining satisfaction from the knowledge that a landscape contains important biodiversity or cultural monuments. The latter may occur without having the intention of ever visiting the area. These services have also been referred to as 'information functions'.

The evaluation of landscapes for planning and manage ment purposes, as well as landscape synthesis and decision making, is based on landscape functions.

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