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What is a Natural Landscape?

By Casey Kennedy
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A natural landscape is when an area of land and the elements that are on it are not directly changed, altered, or moved by humans. These types of elements can be non-living or living, and may include rocks, water, plants, or trees. Generally, wildlife is not considered part of the landscape because animals have the ability to come and go from the area on their own.

Although humans cannot change a landscape and have it remain natural, it can be changed by nature. Wind may blow trees over, fire could destroy vegetation, or floodwaters might remove rocks and hills. All of these things can cause the area to be altered, but it is the human factor of involvement that makes the difference. The contours of a shoreline, caused by the flow of the ocean, is a good example of a natural landscape, despite the land being grains of sand instead of rocks and dirt. Basically, any type of topographical area that remains in an untouched state is considered natural.

This term should not, however, be confused with natural landscaping. With landscaping, humans often move or rearrange the land and its elements to be more esthetically pleasing to the eye. In many cases, it is even possible that the landscape has been almost completely altered or the land leveled to accommodate the building of a house or other type of structure.

Once the construction is complete, there may then be a desire to return the land to what it originally looked like before it was altered. To achieve this look, landscape designers will often imitate the topography of the surrounding area and may create artificial hills or slopes to give the land a natural look. They may also choose to embellish it by adding waterfalls or miniature ponds that were not originally there.

The popularity of green landscaping — the idea of using plant species that are native to a particular area — has helped to blur the line between what is a true natural landscape and what is man-made. These native plants and trees not only help the environment by reducing the use of pesticides and improving air quality, but also encourage wildlife and beneficial insects to return to areas they may once have left. As this trend to green landscaping continues, there is a possibility that future human generations may not be able to tell the difference between natural and fabricated landscapes.

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Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On May 02, 2012

@OeKc05 - Wind can also make an area beautiful, when it combines forces with water. I’m talking about the water in a lake and the shapes it can carve out of stones and sand.

There is a massive lake near my home, and there is an area of caves made of hardened sand on one side of it. At certain times of the year, the water recedes enough for people to explore the area, but at other times, the water is high enough for the wind to blow across it and create waves with enough force to chip away at the sandstone.

From one year to the next, the area changes. I take pictures every season, because the caves never look the same. It is amazing the difference that wind and waves can make in just one year’s time.

By OeKc05 — On May 01, 2012

Wind can do terrible things to natural landscapes, yet even after they have been damaged, they are still considered natural. They are ugly and sad, but natural.

I have seen what a tornado can do to a section of woods. Many miles of a forest were destroyed in the April 2011 tornado outbreak near my home, and what was once a naturally beautiful area full of greenery and life is now a twisted mess of lifeless trunks and fallen branches.

There are just too many damaged acres of trees without any homes in the area for the county to invest in cleanup. So, though it looks like the disaster area that it is, it will remain that way until new trees finally take over and the damaged ones fall fully to the earth to be buried under sediment.

By wavy58 — On May 01, 2012

I love exploring areas with natural landscapes. There are many areas protected by the government that cannot legally be cleared or altered, and these are among my favorite.

It is illegal to dig up a plant from one of these areas and take it somewhere else. The land is supposed to be conserved, and taking from its natural growth can get you into a lot of trouble.

I once discovered a field of wild strawberries in a clearing next to a river, and it was so tempting to take home just one plant. There were thousands of them, and even though I knew that no one would likely notice, I left them alone. I wanted to do my part to keep the landscape natural.

By lighth0se33 — On Apr 30, 2012

Because of all the trees that get cut down for timber and then replaced with seedlings, it really is impossible to tell the real natural landscape from the altered ones. If a forest of several different types of trees is cleared for lumber, and the same mixed types of trees are planted in their place, then once they have matured, no one will be the wiser.

There is a thick forest of a variety of trees down the road from my house. Briar bushes have sprung up between the trees, making it hard to get through the woods. While the briars make this look like it has never been touched by man, it is very possible that the land was cleared decades ago and replenished with trees.

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