Landscape Science

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Landscape Science


the branch of physical geography that deals with natural territorial complexes (or geographic complexes, geosystems) as structural parts of the earth’s geographic mantle. Landscape science was founded in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century by L. S. Berg, G. N. Vysotskii, G. F. Morozov, and other followers of V. V. Dokuchaev. The founder of the science abroad was the German geographer S. Passarge.

The basis of landscape science is the theory that the geographic landscape is the primary element in the physicogeo-graphical differentiation of the earth. Landscape science deals with the origin, structure, and dynamics of landscapes, the laws of the development and arrangement of landscapes, and the transformation of landscapes by the economic activity of man. One of its tasks is to study the parts of the landscape (the lowest-level geosystems—localities, natural boundaries, and facies), their relative arrangement and interactions, the types of spatial structures formed by landscapes, and the transformations of landscapes with the passage of time (landscape morphology). Landscape science also includes the study of zones, sectors, regions, provinces, and other higher-ranking regional geosystems, insofar as these represent regular groupings of landscapes. In the higher-level territorial units landscapes are interconnected by atmospheric circulation, runoff, the migration of plants and animals, and other factors. Elucidation of the general laws of the territorial differentiation of the geographic mantle—an area of research in which both landscape science and geography are engaged—serves as a basis for discovering the origin of the higher-ranking landscapes and geosystems and, at the same time, as a theoretical foundation for physicogeographical regionaliza-tion.

Elementary geographic complexes are studied as parts of related, regularly structured territorial systems (landscapes). Such complexes develop because of processes of limited spheres of action that are typical either of individual landscapes or of groups of landscapes and that follow from the internal development of the latter (for example, the action of flowing water and the formation of morphosculptural elements of the relief; the competitive relationships between plant communities and their interaction with the environment). The regional differentiation of higher-ranking geosystems is subject to the uneven distribution of energy entering the geographic mantle. Landscape belts, zones, and subzones develop as a consequence of the latitudinal distribution of solar energy. The principal consequence of the complex manifestations of the earth’s internal energy is the azonal contrast between the land and the world ocean. The resultant continental-oceanic circulation of air masses brings about the formation of maritime, continental, and transitional physico-geographical sectors on the continents. The development of physicogeographical lands, regions, and districts (and, in the mountains, high-altitude stages and belts) is related to the variety of the morphostructures of the earth’s crust.

Field investigations by expeditions and research stations are the main source of factual material for landscape science. Expeditions usually map landscapes and make it possible to establish the boundaries of natural territorial complexes and to describe their basic and most stable features. Aerial photography is very helpful in mapping landscapes, and the possibility of using photographs taken from space is being considered. Studying the dynamics of geosystems requires the organization of long-term observations, including the investigation of the thermal balance, the moisture balance, the migration of chemical elements, and biological productivity.

Landscape geochemistry, which elaborates the principles of landscape physics (geophysics), is a special branch of geography that developed at the point where landscape science converges on related sciences. In its investigation of facies as the landscape’s energy cells and as the initial link in the chain of geographic interdependence, landscape science overlaps with biogeocenology. Long-term studies of the seasonal dynamics of the landscape are a prerequisite for the development of landscape phenology.

The systematization of observations and the establishment of empirical relationships in landscape science are based primarily on the comparative methods of geography, in which cartographic analysis and the historical method are very important. The first attempts to use mathematical statistics and mathematical logic to study and classify the interrelationships among the components of geosystems were made in the 1960’s. Attempts have been made to define landscapes as self-regulating systems, in order to make possible the application of a structural systems approach to landscape study. There have been quite a few attempts to construct graphic models of geosystems. The next problem will be to create mathematical models to express the principal interrelationships between the various landscape components and between the lower-order geosystems.

Landscape science has always been basically an applied science. As it developed, its practical applications became considerably broader. Several special fields have developed in contemporary applied landscape science: agricultural production, engineering, land reclamation, health use, architectural planning, and recreation. Research in applied landscape science deals with the specialized classification of natural territorial complexes, the evaluation of natural territorial complexes from the point of view of the suitability and advisability of practical utilization, the development of recommendations for the transformation and protection of the complexes, and the forecasting of changes. The principal materials offered by landscape scientists for use in the various sectors of the national economy are applied maps, landscape maps, and charts of regionalization with corresponding texts. The most important practical tasks of landscape science are the development of scientific principles for managing geosystems and the creation of cultivated landscapes. These tasks can only be fulfilled on the basis of a theory of the development of geosystems and their interaction with man’s economic activity. Such a theory will make it possible to forecast the behavior of geosystems caused by natural and anthropogenic factors.

In terms of its methodological importance, landscape science in the USSR occupies a central position among the geographic sciences. Research in landscape science is being conducted in the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Landscape science has not developed as a theoretical discipline in the USA, Great Britain, and many other capitalist countries, but particular applied studies (primarily land classification) are similar to landscape surveying. Landscape science has a number of points in common with ecosystems theory.


Isachenko, A. G. Osnovy landshaftovedeniia i fizikogeograficheskoe raionirovanie. Moscow, 1965.
Landshaftnyi sbornik. Moscow, 1970.
Landshaftovedenie. Moscow, 1963.
Metodika landshaftnykh issledovanii. Leningrad, 1971.
Metody landshaftnykh issledovanii. Moscow, 1969.
Mil’kov, F. N. Osnovnye problemy fizicheskoi geografii. Moscow, 1967.
Preobrazhenskii, V. S. Landshaftnye issledovaniia. Moscow, 1966.
Topologiia stepnykh geosistem. Leningrad, 1970.
Landshaftovedenie. Moscow, 1972.
Neef, E. Die theoretischen Grundlagen der Landschaftslehre. Gotha, 1967.
Troll, C. “Die geographische Landschaft und ihre Erforschung.” Studium generale, 1950, vol. 3, fascs. 4–5.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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