Historische landschapsecologie van Noordoost-Twente: Acht interdisciplinaire studies op het snijvlak van aardkunde, ecologie en cultuurhistorie (ca. 13.000 BP – heden)

Smeenge, H., 2020, [Groningen]: University of Groningen. 496 p.

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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There were two main drivers behind this PhD study on the historical landscape ecology of northeast Twente. First was my deep-seated awareness that the essence of any landscape lies in the varied, ancient and richly layered interaction between earth, people and nature. That is why integrated landscape research calls for a continuous, carefully considered balance between these three dimensions. This is not something that we always find in contemporary landscape research – all the more reason to make an attempt at it here.

Second was my conviction that the interdisciplinary study of historical ecosystems and landscapes can make a significant contribution to area-appropriate solutions to relevant contemporary problems such as biodiversity loss and landscape identity, climate change, flood protection, energy transition and the sustainability of agriculture. Many of today’s problems are being addressed with short-term solutions, based on a knowledge of recent developments. Long-term structural solutions, on the other hand, need to be based much more on a knowledge of long-term landscape processes. This is a second tenet of my research.
Prompted by these two motivations, my aim in this PhD study was to develop an interdisciplinary area-based approach that strikes the right theoretical, methodological and empirical balance between the geological, cultural historical and ecological dimensions of the landscape. There are three main cornerstones in this approach. The first is the close relationship between methods and techniques in physical geography, landscape archaeology, historical geography and landscape ecology. This should enable a more integrated multidimensional form of landscape analysis, which I refer to here as historical landscape ecology.
An important added value over established research methods is that this method is better able to explain geological, ecological and cultural historical developments. Various studies rely far too readily on general assertions and explanations that are poorly substantiated (e.g. ‘it became colder, wetter, it was the plague, wild grazing, the introduction of agriculture’). While all these factors played a role in the picture that I present, their impact differed significantly in each location because of regional differentiation. By applying the new landscape model, we have looked at the landscape from three perspectives, which has often led to much stronger process factors being identified. Supraregional developments such as population growth, the advent of agriculture and the introduction of plaggen agriculture had regional consequences for landscape formation. In various cases, local factors such as the construction of water mills, the building of a castle and the transportation of sandstone were the dominant influences.

This new historical landscape ecological approach is a useful method for understanding both contemporary and historical ecosystems. The major advantage of this approach over traditional landscape ecology is that it utilizes more disciplines and spans a much longer period of time. This broader approach produces a picture of what type of nature arose within a particular area, showing how this nature developed through interaction between earth and people and identifying the ecological turning points over time. This has the significant added value that we are able to assess with far greater accuracy whether the current conservation objectives in the area are achievable and what measures will be most effective when it comes to solving today’s problems of biodiversity loss and climate change.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Spek, Theo, Supervisor
  • Schaminee, Joop H. J., Supervisor, External person
  • Jansen, A.J.M., Co-supervisor, External person
  • Cappers, Reinier, Assessment committee
  • Middelkoop, H., Assessment committee, External person
  • Renes, J, Assessment committee, External person
Award date15-Oct-2020
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-94-034-2831-4
Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-2832-1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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