According to (Whitefield 15), reading landscapes can be quite complex. This is because a landscape consists of several components, which change with geographical surroundings. As a consequence, different geographical areas have dissimilar landscapes. Although the landscape mainly describes as the geographical or physical features of an area, it also includes the living things which inhabit that location. In a literal sense, this means that animals and plants are also part of the landscape. To a great extent, landscape affects the culture, values and behavior of people in an area.
The rooflines of an area can be used as a prologue for reading the local landscape of the area. Rooflines provide evidence of how people have adapted to heat and cold, rain and wind, as well as other people in that region. The roof materials show local quarries, reed-fringed swamps, clay pits and forests (Yamin 23). The roof forms, their make, the overhang of the eaves, their pitch, their mosses and chimneys can help a reader to know the nature of the landscape to a large extend, including the lifestyle the people have. The reader may also learn some qualities of the local people including their gods and gardens (Baldwin 429).
Researchers trying to study a landscape may find first hand reading on the land, which does not involve any signs, quite useful. The records of a landscape are quite clear in fencerows, in playgrounds, in forests, in bogs, in tree rings, pastures and gardens. Such records appear from the creation of the sun and shade, by rain and sun, by the time, by wind and animals (Theilgaard 57). As people study the writings on the land, they discover past accounts, predict the future and comment on what is there, at the present time. On closely studying the landscape, we realize that there are several intertwined strands to every story, and we try to offer various interpretations. Trying to understand the readings on the universe and looking at the living things in their respective habitats is a thrilling adventure in the field of ecology (Carter 16).
According to (Carter 16), ecology can be described as a travelling, diverting companion because it changes from one place to the other as a person travels. Ecology notices the different forests on the north-facing and south-facing slopes of hills and mountains and looks for the evidence behind the long-dead Indian fires. It also describes an island that is moving downstream and also interprets the ever changing shapes of cattle, barns and porches. The accounts, given in the landscapes, give the reader an idea of the application and scope of the ecology.
Landscape is mostly defined by four main characters; the soil, the rocks, climate and the living things in a region (Yamin 25). The rock, which lies below the landscape, dictates the landform of that region. For example, hard rocks create hills and mountains as they erode slowly. On the other hand, soft rocks erode easily and create valleys. The type of rock also significantly influences the soil and vegetation in the region. Most hills are covered with a deep and unbroken bed of a fern called bracken. The fern grows well in deep soils, so where the rocks are close to the surface, the fern gives way to growth of grass.
Landscapes may have many small scale variations. The distinctive climates of a small region are referred to as microclimates. Although the climate of a region has a considerable influence on the landscape, the effect of a microclimate is visible since subtle differences can be observed at a glance. Microclimate is also extremely vital, from a practical point of focus, as it influences the productive potential of a land. All the four landscape factors (rocks, climate, soil and living things) interact constantly. For example, the rocks influence the land form which in turn affects the climate. The rock and climate have an influence on the soil, while the soil and climate influence vegetation. The vegetation also influences climate and soil, and all these influence the agricultural productivity of the land. This determines how the people in a region utilize their land; either for rough grazing, woodland, arable or grassland (Whitefield 76).
In the factors that make landscapes, human beings lie in the category of living things. Human beings have a substantial impact on the landscape especially in the densely populated countries. In the absence of human beings, the cultivated and inhabited would be forests. Human influence is as large as the effect of all the other factors affecting landscape. This makes the factors that affect the landscape not four but just two; nature and human beings.
The most common landscapes are a result of the interplay between human forces and nature. Looking at nature and human beings as the two complementary forces which affect landscape can help people to realize what occurs to the landscape. However, it is also essential to remember that human beings are part of an ecological system thus have no rights to live and thrive than the other species of living things, even though they are much more powerful than the other species and their effect on the landscape is expansive. Human beings should, therefore, remember that they are part of a web in which they are neither superior nor outside it. When people forget this, they destroy the other living systems which they rely on for survival (Carter 36).
Nature will always find a way, even in the artificial landscapes. Even the landscapes, which appear to be fully humanized or totally wild, are a result of the interaction between natural and human forces. It is extremely difficult to imagine a place on earth where human beings have no influence at all. In the bushy and woodland areas where people were hunters and gatherers, they made a significant impact on the ecosystems (especially in areas where the people used fire to improve the hunting). Trees got burned while animals got killed, and this adversely affected the ecosystem and the landscape in general. The introduction of industries has affected every part of the world; consequently, the landscape has also been affected. Dangerous chemicals like DDT are found in animals of all habitats including penguins and polar bears. The effects of global warming have also reached all parts of the world (thus adversely affecting the climate and the other factors that influence the landscape).
All-over the world, the land divides into two parts: urban and rural areas. In the developed countries like Europe, America and most western countries, most of the land is urban areas. In a country like Britain, more than two thirds of the country is an urban area while the rest is moorland and other rough grazing lands. The small area remaining as woodland is mostly used as a resource by the people; as a result, it has a little resemblance to the prehistoric wildwood. Most of the land modified by human beings and the animals they keep except for the highest peaks of the mountains which are not reachable. The western countries have no wilderness because of the interaction between people and their universe (Theilgaard 56).
The reciprocal action between people and nature has led to the emergence of a semi natural ecosystem. Semi natural means that human activities have modified the ecosystem, but the vegetation has not been planted by man; it is natural vegetation. A good example of a semi natural ecosystem is the highland moors. In the case of moorland, extensive grazing of animals by human beings has prevented the reproduction of trees for a prolonged duration, and this has resulted to the elimination of woodland. The plants, which currently exist in the area, are those which survived from the time of woodland or the ones which moved in on their own. These are the plants which can tolerate the present conditions of grazing, climate and soil. People do not create them but are responsible for their existence in that area. There are also grasslands that are semi natural and which consist of wild flowers and self-selected grasses although they account for a minute percentage of grasslands.
A semi natural ecosystem is the one where human beings have determined the structure and nature has given the plants. For example, changing the landscape from wildwood to coppice wood or from woodland to grassland alters the range of species which can exist in the area. These species, however, come from a range of plants and animals which can exist on their own accord. Semi-natural ecosystems can be described as jewels of biodiversity; it is the last refuge of wild animals and plants in a densely humanized landscape. The semi natural ecosystems are rare in the fertile areas of the country where almost all the land became farming land, which is more productive. The plants which survive are mostly the reserves of nature. In areas where the productive potential is low like in the uplands, there is great moorland and rough grassland. It is close to the vegetation of the wilderness, but it is not wild. This is a fruit of the long-term interaction between human beings and nature (Whitefield 124).
The unique model of flashing windswept plateaus and wooded valleys is common in most countries in the west where dissected plateaus lie at the side of the sea. This occurs in many places especially in the areas close to the sea. The western countries have a landscape with varying theme while moving to the east the region is divided into two unique landscape types; the clay vales and the chalk downs. The downs are broad, opens hills, initially unfenced sheep-walk, but now they are wire fenced into large portions, which are mostly in corn. The trees are mostly in isolated clumps or occasional magnificent woods. The landscape is dry, and the surface does not have water. In contrast, the clay vales have tinier densely hedged regions which have hedgerow trees, occasional small woods, rivers and streams. There are also less long views. The soil is heavy and holds sufficient water thus the area grows lush grass that is suitable for dairy farming. The same contrast is also observed in the countries which have chalk. However, the situation there is complicated as a result of other forms of landscape like sandy heath.
Variations in the landscape are not dictated by physical conditions every time; there is some free will in the issue. People can make decisions that affect landscape and which do not rely on the strict economy or the physical realities of the land. For instance, a farmer may not need trees in his edges so he cuts them down. A visitor may wonder why trees do not grow on the hedge of that farmer yet they grow in the hedges of his neighbors. Many items on the landscape are mostly a matter of personal decision and will. A person may also decide to leave a piece of land which is suitable for agriculture to grow trees and turn to woodland. Many people may think that the land is not suitable for agriculture, but it was purely a personal decision to have the land that way.
Although the landscape is a result of the interaction between human beings and natural forces, in most cases the relationship is considered as a struggle between the two forces. From the study of history, it is difficult to determine the forces which have led to the conception of the present landscapes. Initially, natural forces were seen to be stronger that the human forces. With the discovery of the fossil fuel generation, the ability of people to alter the landscape has expanded considerably and human beings are seen as winning the battle of the changing landscape more that the natural forces (Yamin 56).
Currently, many people regret the problems that have inflicted on nature. This is for the sake of the nature and also because it has ruined unusually many processes. Global warming is an excellent example of this aspect. Global warming occurred due to people’s activities like industrialization. It has adversely affected the climate leading to poor raining thus leading to drought and famine. In conclusion, landscape in any area is determined by the interaction between human beings and natural forces. Although human beings have changed a lot of things to suit their environment, there are some natural things which they can never change.
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Whitefield, Patrick. The Living Landscape: How to Read and Understand It. Washington D.C.:
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Yamin, Rebecca. Landscape Archaeology: Reading Interpreting American Historical
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