Time for change: The legacy of a Euro-Andean model of landscape versus the need for landscape connectivity

Karl S. Zimmerer, Martha G. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The extreme social-ecological diversity and human use of tropical mountains has led to the development of complex and globally influential models of humanized landscapes. At the same time, such regions are increasingly subject to challenges from new global socioeconomic and environmental changes. This study investigates the role of landscape models amid new social-ecological challenges in the Andes of western South America. Research is focused on the Andean valley-upland landscape model that emerged in the early colonial period (1550-1750), and its long-lasting legacies. This model drew on the hybrid Euro-Andean landscape knowledge forged in contexts of landholding institutions, urbanization, and demographic and climatic change of the early colonial period. It is examined here through multi-dimensional sources ranging from Chronicles; indigenous texts and maps; colonial laws; imperial Geographic Reports; sanctioned Inspections; demographic and land use changes; impacts of Little Ice Age climate change; historical cartography; and landholding litigation documents. Andean valley basins were treated as fixed sites of Spanish control and private property, whereas uplands featured fugitive qualities. The valley-upland landscape model thus exemplified a binary and relational territorial logic of settled/unsettled that contributed to the colonial dispossession of indigenous lands. Its powerful legacy is a major counterpoint to environmental interpretations of European conquest and colonialism such as pristine myth debates. Today the valley-upland model is notably incongruous with expanding needs for landscape connectivity and sustainability. Its emphasis on spatial distinctness and separateness is at odds with current challenges, especially climate change, that require enhancing connectivity to strengthen resilience across social-ecological units.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-116
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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