National Wetlands Update February 2013
Issue No. 22, February 2013
'Walking the landscape' - a whole-of-system framework for understanding and mapping environmental processes and values
Queensland Wetlands Program, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
'Walking the landscape' is a systematic and transparent science synthesis framework which integrates existing data with expert knowledge through hands-on workshops to create a common understanding among multidisciplinary teams.
The framework incorporates all the available knowledge on landscape components (e.g. groundwater dependent ecosystem, lacustrine wetland, vegetation etc.) and processes (hydrological, geological etc.) and uses the information to produce conceptual models which link to a map.
These products help answer questions like how the landscape contributes to flood behaviour or why groundwater dependent ecosystems occur in certain locations.
Aim of 'Walking the landscape'
The primary aim of the framework is to help develop a whole-of-landscape understanding to improve evidence-based decision making for the sustainable management and restoration of ecological systems.
In broad terms the framework for 'Walking the landscape' involves two stages:
- Assimilating available information through participatory workshops.
- Synthesising and developing it into a revised understanding or product.
'Walking the landscape' captures information about an entire environment in a comprehensive, systematic and rigorous way. The main points of distinction from other science synthesis projects are that it:
- develops a new shared understanding by linking available research and data to expert opinion
- centres the understanding around the environmental processes
- presents the information in a simple accessible format, using familiar mapping tools (e.g. ArcGIS, Google maps)
- addresses one of the major criticisms of broad-scale mapping - the lack of integration of knowledge from local experts into datasets used by policy and decision makers.
Outcomes and outputs of 'Walking the landscape'
The framework generates a whole-of-system map linked to the conceptual understanding of how the environment functions. The final outputs are:
- a series of conceptual models describing aspects of landscape function in terms of its components and processes
- a series of decision rules and rule sets that describe the application of the conceptual models to spatial data
- a map of the landscape, derived from the application of the rule sets and linked to the conceptual models
- supporting documentation for the project (e.g. literature review, framework, metadata, workshop reports).
Application of 'Walking the landscape'
The framework itself is quite flexible. It can be applied to develop a holistic overview of environmental function, for example, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's coastal ecosystems program. It can also be used to develop more technical mapping products (eg groundwater dependent ecosystem mapping) and community engagement tools for management and planning outcomes (eg wetland and floodplain resilience conceptual modelling).
The framework and its fundamental concepts and principles are outlined in 'Walking the landscape': A whole-of-system framework for understanding and mapping environmental processes and values.
A number of key projects directly contributed to the principles found in the 'Walking the landscape' framework which is available on WetlandInfo . These include the Aquatic Biodiversity Assessment and Mapping Method (AquaBAMM), Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Mapping Project, the framework for evaluating aquatic ecosystem connectivity and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's coastal ecosystems project.
A demonstration of the final mapping and spatially linked pictorial conceptual models for the Queensland Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem (GDE) Mapping Project. An area of the landscape, as displayed through an online mapping tool (WetlandMaps) has been identified as a terrestrial ecosystem potentially dependent on groundwater. This terrestrial GDE is linked to a pictorial conceptual model representing the key attributes supporting groundwater and ecosystem interaction that are likely to be relevant to this GDE.
(Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection)