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Collapsing landscapes? The regional science contribution to spatial understanding

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posted on 21.05.2021, 16:55 by Eric Vaz
Recent decades have witnessed unprecedented landscape change. Most of these changes have been brought by human impact on the environment, and excessive exploitation of resources. While economic growth has brought prosperity and better living conditions, much of the human impact has had irreversible consequences on environmental systems and destroyed fragile ecosystems and biodiversity. As much as our impact on earth has brought irreversible environmental change, our landscapes have in detriment of these choices witnessed a substantial change, most of it affecting our natural and historical heritage (Vaz and Nijkamp, 2009). In the context of regional development, economic geography and complex space-time dynamics are factors of continuous change (Nijkamp and Abreu, 2009). Monitoring of the transitions of land at regional level, is thus of utmost importance for founder regions in future. It is of utmost importance to preserve landscapes by enabling efficient economic growth, without jeopardizing the natural ecosystems and mitigating the impacts on the anthropogenic heritage and archaeological landscapes alike. This paper advances on the possible spatial interpretations of landscape change by means of defining the role at present of Geographic Information Systems as tools to allow sounder urban and regional interactions. Thus, I propose three pathways integrating regional development within a spatial landscape preservation framework. It draws inspiration from much of the work realized by Peter Nijkamp, concerning lessons learned from complex spatiotemporal interactions of regions. I arrive to the conclusion that we are facing what I designate as a general collapsing landscape, a result of rapid economic changes followed by landscape functionality. From a spatial perspective, regions can only become sustainable, when spatial memory – that is, the identity of place and time and economic traditions – are coherent and long lasting. From a regional science perspective, three types of landscape paradigms within the collapsing landscape are defined, posing as solutions for sustainable development in future: (i) the coherent landscape, (ii) the dominant landscape and (iii) the vertical landscape. All of these types of landscapes largely depend on our options taken in the next decades. The usage of Geographic Information Systems, in particular the recent advances in location based services, crowd sourcing and ambient information, play a leading role in the development of regions and may act as a visual tool for evaluation landscape change.

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