LANDSCAPE EUROPE adopts the definition of Wascher et al. (1998):
"Landscapes can be identified as spatial units where region-specific elements and processes reflect natural and cultural goods or history in a visible, spiritual and partly measurable way". LANDSCAPE EUROPE is committed to the application of objective approaches to all its activities and identifies six main areas of landscape research:
- Landscapes are an expression of interaction Landscapes are dynamic and characteristic expressions of the interaction between human societies and culture with the natural and physical environment. Depending on the degree of human interaction, landscape characteristics can be dominated by natural aspects on the one hand or by human management on the other hand. In Europe only a very few "natural landscapes" remain. Almost all of the European countryside is of cultural origin in which biophysical properties are remodelled and interwoven with cultural features. Key factors that determine cultural landscapes are the physical conditions, climate, relief, soil and water availability, but also, economic conditions, technical means, cultural and social aspects, planning and policy environment, international and national policies and management instruments. The design of new urban-rural landscapes requires knowledge of all aspects related to landscapes, ecology, economy and other values and processes.
- Landscapes are dynamic systems Because of the underlying human and natural processes, living landscapes are subject to change and evolution. Many of the European cultural landscapes are facing changes in agricultural practices or land use that appear to conflict with important landscape values such as biodiversity, cultural heritage, natural beauty and aesthetics. The influence of pressures such as globalisation, urbanisation, land abandonment, drainage, irrigation, intensification, acidification, nitrogen deposition and eutrophication are causing decline in landscape quality. New boundary conditions for sustainable development of living landscapes should be developed.
- Landscapes are an important ecological resource Landscape represents the integrated level of spatial interaction between the individual ecosystems forming the basis of sustainable life. Caring for either individual species or nature reserves in isolation does not guarantee the sustainable development of neither nature nor the environment. The fragmentation of semi-natural habitats that has taken place in agricultural landscapes is a major issue in this context. It is only at the landscape level that comprehensive planning of natural resources, including their cultural values, can be adequately carried out.