Greenways as strategic landscape planning: theory and application

J.F. Ahern

Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


<FONT FACE="Book Antiqua"><p>Greenways are systems and/or networks of protected lands that are managed for multiple uses including: nature protection, biodiversity management, water resources, recreation, and cultural/historic resource protection. Greenway planning is defined here as a strategic action that integrates theories from landscape ecology with theories and methods of landscape planning to focus on the goal of realizing a sustainable "greenway" network of protected lands, managed for compatible multiple purposes. A greenway system or network includes linear corridors and larger areas of protected land that are physically and functionally connected. Greenways are strategic and spatially efficient for protecting and managing land because greenway resources are not randomly distributed but rather are concentrated in corridors.</p></font><FONT FACE="Book Antiqua"><p>This thesis argues that greenways originated in the United States of America (USA) but are spreading internationally because the greenway concept is: (1) based in part on scientific knowledge, (2) understandable and image-able to the public, and (3) strategic in realizing multiple goals. Greenways are supported by theories from landscape ecology, particularly those concerning spatial configuration and connectivity. Because Greenways are a relatively new concept in landscape planning, new theory, planning strategies, and planning methods are needed. The application of greenways as a component of sustainable landscape planning requires new approaches which integrate abiotic, biotic, and cultural resources and issues. This thesis includes reviews of international greenway literature, and makes original contributions to this emerging theory, planning strategies, and planning methods. Case studies and case applications in the USA and The Netherlands are used to explain and test the theory, strategies, and methods.</p><p>Key concepts in the emerging greenway theory and methods include: alternative future scenarios, and adaptive management/planning. Scenarios are useful in conceiving alternative future landscapes and greenways feature prominently in many scenario studies. Both scientific knowledge and creative concepts are needed to formulate effective greenway scenarios. Greenway planning is often conducted with uncertain or incomplete knowledge. Adaptive planning/ management offers a framework for planning and implementing greenways in an experimental manner that yields new knowledge through application, plan implementation, and monitoring. A framework method for greenways and landscape ecological planning is proposed which integrates these key theories from landscape ecology, spatial concepts and scenarios, and adaptive management. The framework method is applied in several test applications in the USA and discussed in the Dutch context.</p></font><FONT FACE="Book Antiqua"><p>Principles from landscape ecology relating to spatial and temporal scales are also important and are understood in a hierarchical framework. The landscape scale is appropriate for sustainability planning because it is large enough to accommodate heterogeneity and disturbance regimes, yet small enough to survey, assess, plan, design, and manage for specific landscape structure. Operating at the landscape scale planners can hope to understand and manage fundamental pattern and process relationships and dynamics.</p><p>Three fundamental principles are posed in support of greenways: 1) The hypothesis of co-occurrence of resources in greenways, 2) The inherent benefits of landscape connectivity, 3) The concept of compatible, or synergistic multiple use in greenways. This paper asserts that these three fundamental greenway principles derive from landscape planning theory; are supported and strengthened by emerging landscape ecology theory; and that their application as greenways supports the contemporary international policy goal of sustainability.</p></font><FONT FACE="Book Antiqua"><p>The thesis identifies contemporary greenways trends based on an original survey which found that: 1) Greenways are increasingly integrated with comprehensive landscape planning at the state level in the USA, and 2) Greenways are often initiated to provide trail and recreational use, but evolve to support multipurpose/multi-functional planning goals and objectives. A future prognosis for greenways in the USA is offered including an expected shift from locally initiated to regional and interstate greenway planning and implementation, and more explicit integration of multiple uses in greenways.</p></font><FONT FACE="Book Antiqua"><p>This research raises a larger set of questions that transcend and cut across many of the issues, theories and strategies identified. If the world is engaged in a quest for sustainability, what is the role of ecology, and how does ecology relate with design? What do ecologists need to know about planning and design? and what do designers and planners need to know about ecology? Landscape ecologists might reply: spatial and temporal pattern and scale, dynamics of process, and disturbance processes. Planners and designers might reply: a better understanding of the role of humans' in creating, transforming and restoring landscapes, the value and place of aesthetics (including historical precedent), and perhaps the ultimate cultural construct, economics.</p></font><FONT FACE="Book Antiqua"><p>The questions are many and complex. The challenges will grow in number and intensity as most of the world's landscapes continue to intensify and change. Greenways is an idea that promises to contribute to the resolution of some of these questions and challenges. Progress has been made. I hope that my thoughts and ideas can contribute to this quest for sustainability in some useful way.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Kerkstra, K., Promotor
Award date19 Mar 2002
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789058086051
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • landscape
  • landscape ecology
  • landscape architecture
  • landscape conservation
  • nature conservation
  • sustainability
  • ecosystems
  • physical planning
  • netherlands
  • usa

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