Landscape Evolution: 10 - Landscape evolution and environmental change

Elsevier, Landscape Evolution, Landforms, Ecosystems, and Soils, 2021, Pages 301-338
Jonathan D. Phillips

Earth faces serious contemporary and future environmental change. The principles of landscape evolution outlined here provide valuable lessons for understanding, interpreting, managing, and responding to those changes, which are reviewed here. The theory outlined in this book can be summarized as TREE: Transformative, Reciprocal, Emergent Evolution. Transformative evolution signifies continuous change, punctuated by state changes rather than incremental progression. Reciprocal represents the fact that landscapes are characterized by dense networks of interactions and by mutual adjustments. Landscape evolution is emergent because it is strongly directed and constrained by various forms of selection, leading to phenomena that arise spontaneously and are not preordained. The inherent, irreducible individuality (perfection) of landscape means that each has its own individual stories, the telling of which will ideally reveal commonalities with other landscapes while preserving, and even celebrating, their unique aspects. Two examples are presented: the evolution of the lower Sabine River valley, USA, largely driven by geomorphic change; and of the main ridge of the Šumava Mountains, Czech Republic, driven chiefly by ecosystem engineering impacts of vegetation.