When monitoring landscape changes, the visual landscape should also be considered. This pertains to the information function of ecosystems and landscapes that refers to environmental structure and its function for satisfying needs. These needs of human perception include a certain equipment of landscape with stimuli, spatial orientation, as well as aesthetical-emotional needs. However, previous approaches of environmental monitoring and registration of landscape changes exclusively focus on the ecosystem; aesthetic and structural characteristics are evaluated, if at all, only via easily quantifiable variables in a data oriented manner that illustrates the diversity of individual landscape elements without theoretically grounding them based on general hypotheses and a theoretical concept. Based on results from perception research and information theory, therefore, a method for registering the visual landscape on different complexity levels is developed. This includes:"elements" (i.e. "element level"), that is the description of the different types of land use and structure elements within a landscape unit. Furthermore, under these elements a variety of manifestations are also subsumed, such as small spatial dimensional relations, as well as individual synesthetic perceptions (noise and smells);"characteristics" (i.e. "shape level"), that is the typical combinations of elements, design shapes and proportions;and the overall area perception, that is the "character" (i.e. the space level) of a landscape as the result of a characterization process that classifies, illustrates and describes areas that are similar in appearance. One possible application of this approach can be demonstrated by the impacts of streets on the visual landscape. This example makes it evident that indicators for landscape diversity are only able to illustrate changes of individual elements but not of the character of landscapes themselves. This fact makes it necessary to additionally integrate aspects aside from quantitative ones when evaluating the visual landscape. Furthermore, it is necessary to empirically verify aspects that are significant for the perception of landscapes in order to make them more accessible than has been thus far for evaluations in the sense of indicators. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Jessel, B. (2006). Elements, characteristics and character - Information functions of landscapes in terms of indicators. Ecological Indicators, 6(1), 153–167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2005.08.009