Examining Vegetation of Built Landscapes and Their Relationship to Existing Ecosystems


  • Margaret Livingston
  • David Myers




An understanding of the various influences of urbanisation on plant communities is critical for planning a sustainable future for the planet. For example, landscape practices and sense of place driven by aesthetic influences often dominate in the design of built landscapes, resulting in strikingly different vegetation communities from that of the surrounding communities. Furthermore, these built landscapes in metropolitan areas often markedly influence an inhabitant's impressions of a region's biotic foundation and sense of place. Inhabitants may not consider or understand the ecological impacts of practices that are typically dominated by contemporary cultural aesthetics. Do these cultural aesthetic drivers result in relatively similar landscapes in terms of appearance, regardless of region? The purpose of this study was to document general trends in landscape structure and composition from two distinct, different regions. Specifically, we addressed the questions: how do these built landscapes deviate from their surrounding natural communities and are these built landscapes from the two regions similar in structure and composition? This paper characterised landscape vegetation patterns of typical residential areas in two cities with relatively diverse climatic regions, Tucson, Arizona and Atlanta, Georgia. Comparisons were done on data for plant diversity, density, life form (tree, shrub, groundcover, and vines) and species origin (native versus non-native) from sites within typical residential subdivisions throughout the two cities. Results were compared with the composition of local typology in order to determine what differences and similarities existed in relation to native biotic communities. In both cities, residential landscapes converged on savannah-type landscapes, emphasising scattered overstory and minimal understory that were more compositionally diverse than the native biotic communities because of the introduction of non-native species. In addition, human activities were employed to create more savannah-like vegetation assemblages than those comprising the surrounding natural communities. In order to address the need for ecologically sensitive and sustainable landscapes, the sense of place created in residential landscapes will need to incorporate environmental values as a determination of a landscape aesthetic. These values can be incorporated by making landscape planning and design decisions based on a more inclusive concept of biotic infrastructure. Public policy, education and regulatory programmes research should reflect this.


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How to Cite

Livingston, M., & Myers, D. (2004). Examining Vegetation of Built Landscapes and Their Relationship to Existing Ecosystems. Landscape Review, 9(1), 171–175. https://doi.org/10.34900/lr.v9i1.164



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