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.