Comparative assessment of human-environment landscape change

John Harrington, Brent Yarnal, Diana Liverman, B. L. Turner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction: Humans acting to change Earth away from hypothetical pristine conditions is one of three key themes on human-environment relationships identified in Clarence Glacken's (1967) classic work, Traces on the Rhodian Shore. A century earlier, George Perkins Marsh (1864) helped create awareness and elucidate concerns regarding the nature and magnitude of human-induced changes to the planet. More recent compilations (e.g., Thomas 1956; Turner et al. 1990a; Foley et al. 2005) have continued to expand our knowledge of the complex and multiple pathways in which human actions alter the Earth system. A key issue in human dimensions of global change research (NRC 1999) and in sustainability science (Kates et al. 2001) is a need to understand how the specifics of human structure and agency interact (Sorrensen et al. 2005) with the natural environment in disparate places. In theory, local transformations could then be accumulated to produce the cumulative impact on the planet (Turner et al. 1990b; NRC 1992). What similarities and differences exist in the human activities, what are the socioeconomic drivers of those activities, and what are the impacts of those activities in forested, grassland, and desert environments? And, how can scholars compare and contrast these human actions in areas where very different natural resources and settlement histories exist? The HERO transect of North American research sites, from humid central Massachusetts and central Pennsylvania, to semi-arid southwestern Kansas, to the arid border region between Arizona and Sonora, provides the opportunity for a comparative examination of human-environment interactions over time - especially those forces that have altered land cover and land use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSustainable Communities on a Sustainable Planet
Subtitle of host publicationThe Human-Environment Regional Observatory Project
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9780511635694
ISBN (Print)9780521895699
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparative assessment of human-environment landscape change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this