Polish Association of Landscape Ecology (PAEK): A History

This article was originally published in the newsletter of the Polish Association for Landscape Ecology and is reproduced here by kind permission, following the recent succesful online European Congress hosted from Warsaw. 

Andrez Richling

Polish Association for Landscape Ecology, University of Warsaw. Email a.richling@uw.edu.pl

Landscape ecology appeared in Poland relatively early and developed under the influence of the events taking place in other European countries. It should be recalled that its definition was formulated in the late 1930s by the German geographer and botanist, as well as the well-known traveler Carl Troll[1], who believed that the basic task of this discipline was the functional analysis of landscape content and the explanation of its multidirectional and changing relationships. This was a modern definition  well captured the essence of the new science or research direction. Troll emphasized the importance of landscape research for practical purposes, especially for various forms of spatial  planning. He also believed that the development of landscape ecology was stimulated by the use of aerial photography.

However, the term landscape ecology did not initially become widespread. This was partly because for many researchers at the time, the development of science was equated with deepening specialization. Troll himself also contributed to this situation because after some time he modified the original definition of landscape ecology by referring to Tansley's ecosystem concept that was fashionable at the time. He stated that the discussed science this science deals with the complex of interrelationships between biocenoses and their environmental conditions in specific sections of the landscape. As a result, landscape ecology was often treated as a biological science (ecology practiced at the landscape level) without considering its integrative role in the study of the landscape as a whole, especially its dynamics.

The development of the broadly understood landscape ecology in line with the original definition of Troll was brought only in the 70s of the last century. In 1972, the Society for Landscape Ecology was founded in the Netherlands, which in 1981 organized the international conference “Perspectives on Landscape Ecology” in Veldhoven. In 1976 Leser's textbook entitled “Landschaftsőkologie was published. In Slovakia, on the initiative of Milan Ružička, a series of seminars on problems of landscape-ecological research was initiated in 1967 (the 18th seminar belonging to this series was held in 2018). They were organized by the Institute of Experimental Biology and Ecology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (since 1990 the Institute of Landscape Ecology).

These activities contributed to the establishment of an international organization for those interested in landscape ecology. In 1982, the International Association of Landscape Ecology (IALE) was founded in the health resort  town of Piešťany in Slovakia.

This was the background for the development of landscape ecology in Poland. While we had been looking for geographic models for landscape research from our eastern and western neighbors, landscape ecology came to us from the south. We took part in the above-mentioned seminars of M. Ružička and made use of numerous thematic publications appearing in Slovakia, especially in the highly ranked journal “Ekologia”[2]. We also participated in competitive meetings organized by Emil Mazur from the Institute of Geography of the Slovak Academy of Sciences within the Working Group of the International Geographical Union “Landscape Synthesis”. The meetings were held successively in Smolenice, Slovakia (1981), Joensuu, Finland (1983), Nice, France (1984), Dessau, former GDR (1985), Banyoles near Barcelona, Spain (1986).  The group's work resulted in several publications, including a special volume  of the magazine "GeoJournal" and texts on terminology (elaborated by F. Snacken) and modeling of landscape processes (compiled by J.I.S. Zonneveld).

Polish representatives also participated in many other scientific events, mainly related to IALE activities, including,  first of all, IALE Congresses.  We were present in Piešťany in 1982 when the IALE was founded. We also participated in subsequent congresses organized basically every 4 years in different places around the world[3] and in many other congresses and symposia of smaller scope.

In 1994 appeared a textbook by Andrzej Richling and Jerzy Solon entitled  “Ekologia Krajobrazu” (Landscape Ecology). The book has seen five editions[4]. The latest, updated and significantly revised, was published in 2011. In 2010 Maciej Pietrzak published the book “Podstawy i Zastosowania Ekologii Krajobrazu” (Foundations and Applications of Landscape Ecology)[5]. The first part of the second edition of this book was published in 2020.

An attempt to create a Polish section of IALE combined with the establishment of the IALE working group ‘Urban Ecology’ was made in 1985 by Professor Tadeusz Bartkowski. The constitutional meeting of this section was held on October 11th in Poznań and was combined with the Polish-German conference  Geosystemy Miast  (Urban Geosystems-Stadtgeosystems). At this meeting the Board with Professor Bartkowski as chairman and Daniela Sołowiej as secretary  was elected. This move was not, however, approved by the proper authorities, which was due to the difficulties involved in obtaining permission to establish a new organization at that time. 

The first formally existing organization in Poland was the Landscape Ecology Club of the Polish Geographical Society established in 1988. The work of Club  was managed  by five-person Board chaired by A. Richling, with the participation of T. Bartkowski, Wojciech Lewandowski, Krzysztof Wojciechowski and Przemysław Wolski.

The Landscape Ecology Club of Polish Geographical Society organized 7 scientific conferences. The first conferences were devoted to the practical significance of landscape-ecological research.  Particular attention  was paid  to areas of strong anthropopresure. The next ones were devoted to ecological foundations of agriculture and research on territorial recreational systems. During the existence of the Landscape Ecology Club, 5 publications were published, including  materials  presented at the above-mentioned conferences.

 The activities of the Landscape Ecology Club were closed at the beginning of 1993. This was due to the desire to create an independent organization affiliated to the International Association for Landscape Ecology.

The Polish Association for Landscape Ecology  was founded in 1993. The Board, the Revision Committee and  the Peer Court of the new organization were elected at the first General Assembly, which took place in Warsaw on October 6th. The Board was constituted as follows: President - A. Richling, Vice-President - M. Pietrzak, Secretary - D. Sołowiej, Treasurer - W. Lewandowski, Members: K. Wojciechowski, J. Solon, Wojciech Widacki.

According to its statute, the basic tasks of the Association include:

- acting for the benefit of landscape ecology development and undertaking activities aimed at increasing public interest in this discipline;

- promoting the idea of  integrated, interdisciplinary research of natural environment; 

- propagation of the achievements of landscape ecology and advising on their application in the national economy;

- participation in education of new specialists in landscape ecology;  

- to maintain, support and facilitate contacts between researchers and practitioners in the field of landscape ecology.

In 2022, 29 years of the organization's existence will have passed. The term of office of its authorities was initially 4 years, and by decision of the General Assembly, which took place on May 20, 2010 in Grabanów near Biala Podlaska  (in east of Poland), it was extended to 5 years. The Board and the other bodies were thus elected seven times. The last, 7th term of office of the authorities of the Polish Association for Landscape Ecology, due to the coronavirus epidemic, was prolonged twice. The first time, on the basis of a resolution of the General Assembly of 2020.12.21, it was extended to the end of 2021 and again to 2022.06.20  

29 persons participated in the activities of the Board, the Revision Committee and the Peer Court of the Association, some of them several times, and the functions of the Board Chairman were performed by: Andrzej Richling, Maciej Pietrzak, Mariusz Kistowski and Jarosław Balon. 

Scientific conferences were the basic form of activity of  organization under discussion.  As a rule, they were co-organized by various scientific centers. So far, excluding the conferences of the Landscape Ecology Club, 43 such meetings have taken place. 

Seven of them were of international character, and the debates were conducted in English. The first meeting, inaugurating the Association, was held in 1993 in Warsaw and was devoted to the applications of landscape research in environmental management. The next meeting, also held in Warsaw in 1996, dealt with landscape transformation in Europe. The fourth international meeting took place in 2007 in Warsaw and was devoted to landscape classification, while the fifth, held in 2010 in Obrzycko (near Poznan), concerned practical application of landscape-ecological knowledge. Another meeting was held in Warsaw in 2011 and referred to the well-known publication by N. Beroutchachvili[6] and was entitled  “Four dimensions of landscape”, and the last international meeting was held in 2016 in  Łochów (near Warsaw) and concerned the integrative role of landscape ecology in the theory of ecosystem services.

The topics of the other conferences were varied and indicated the broad  scientific  interest of their organizers and participants. For example, on the 10th anniversary of the Association, a conference was organized on the role of landscape-ecological studies in the process of integrating Poland into the European Union. The topics of many meetings focused on the analysis of the structure and function of landscape systems, their systematics and boundaries and  application of modern techniques in the study of the natural environment.

The discussed conferences were also devoted to practical issues, such as: the application of a comprehensive analysis of landscape in spatial planning and environmental protection, as well as in the broadly understood management of natural resources. Several meetings were devoted to the application of landscape ecology in planning and organization of tourism. There were also conferences on landscape transformation.

It should also be mentioned that on 12th of April 2018, as part of the Congress of Polish Geography dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first geographical unit at the University of Warsaw and the 100th anniversary of the Polish Geographical Society, a meeting dedicated to the history and importance of landscape ecology research in Poland was held among several thematic sessions. This meeting, organized by Polish Association for  Landscape Ecology, emphasized the role of these studies in space management, including activities  related to the development of landscape audit.

The majority of the conferences resulted in publications including speeches and voices in discussions, and with time also texts sent to the editorial office not only by conference participants. The first five were published by the Landscape Ecology Club of the Polish Geographical Society. Since 1996 the publications of the Polish Association for  Landscape Ecology have been published in the series “Problems of Landscape Ecology”. With time, this series has been increasingly fulfilling the role of a scientific journal of the Association. In 2008, it was included in the list of journals of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. This move was preceded by the appointment of a Program Council composed of the representatives of centers involved in landscape research. Standardization of the form of the published volumes has been also carried out.  

Until today, in addition to the five volumes of the Landscape Ecology Club, there appeared 48 volumes whose publisher or co-publisher was the Polish Association for  Landscape Ecology.  27 of them after the series was transformed  into a journal. Eight volumes were published in English, the others with English summaries of Polish texts.

The Polish Association for Landscape Ecology also publishes a bulletin, which informs about the most important events in Poland and abroad.  It also contains information about organized  conferences, a list of new publications dedicated to landscape ecology and their reviews and an information about planned events.

Between 1996 and 2007, the Association, with the financial support of the National Foundation for Environmental Protection, organized 9 competitions for masters'  theses in landscape ecology, which were met  with vivid interest.  The submitted theses were evaluated by the members of the Association Board  or by invited reviewers, and the prizes were awarded on the occasion of important events in the life of the Polish Association for Landscape Ecology.

Within the framework of the Association the research topic entitled “Landscapes of Poland” was also implemented.  The work was directed by Marian Drużkowski.  In Poland, 60 square-shaped research fields were selected with reference to the differentiation of landscape types and the range of physical-geographical regions.  Complex studies on the structure and function of landscape and selected elements of natural and cultural heritage were carried out within the boundaries of these fields. The aim was to prepare a prognosis of changes in the natural environment against the background of differentiated anthropopressions and to formulate appropriate recommendations with respect to space management. In spite of some enthusiasm and involvement of several dozen of people, it was not possible to produce a synthesis referring to the area of the whole country.

For the development of landscape ecology in Poland the activity of IALE Working Group “Landscape System Analysis in Environmental Management” was of  a great importance. The group was set up on the initiative of the participants of the conference  “Advances in Landscape Synthesis Research”  held in Bratislava in May 1991.  The next meeting of the group took place in Warsaw in October 1993 and was connected with the first conference of the newly established  Association.   The next meetings were organized successively:  in August 1995 in Toulouse, in conjunction with the IALE Congress, in October 1996, again in Warsaw, in conjunction with the conference “Landscape Transformation in Europe”, then in November 1997 in Nitra, jointly with the 11th International Symposium on Problems of Landscape Ecological Research, in September 1998 in Prague within the framework of the IALE conference “Present and Historical Nature - Culture Interactions in Landscape”, in October 1999 in Pułtusk, connected with the conference “Landscape Ecology - Theory, Teaching, Applications” and finally in November 2000 in Stara Lesna, Slovakia, within the framework of the 12th International Symposium on Problems of Landscape Ecological Research. After 2000 the activity of the Working Group decreased and due to increasing difficulties, including financial ones, it was suspended at the end of 2003.

M. Moss was elected the first chairman of the working group in Bratislava, and in 1996 was replaced by A. Richling.

The results of the activities, especially the presentations made during the conferences mentioned above, were published together with other materials in foreign language volumes issued by the organizers of the conferences and symposia mentioned above, including in 1994, 1996 and 1999 by the Polish Association for Landscape Ecology. Also in 1999, there was a delayed publication in Canada of a collective work edited by M.R. Moss and R.J. Milne[7], presenting papers at the  conference inaugurating the activity of the working group.

The activities of the International Association for Landscape Ecology depend largely on the activities of national organizations. The number of such organizations has been increasing and now there are 24, including the Polish Association for Landscape Ecology. Relatively recently there has been a tendency to create intermediary structures grouping the national organizations. An example of such structures is the European Association for Landscape Ecology, which is accompanied by analogous organizations grouping landscape ecologists from North America and Africa.

The European Association for Landscape Ecology (EALE) was established in 2009 in Salzburg. However, it is worth noting that the project of its creation first appeared much earlier, in 1991, during the IALE conference in Roskilde, Denmark, devoted to summarizing the activities of landscape ecologists in Europe before the World Congress in Ottawa.

The European Association for Landscape Ecology held two congresses: in Manchester, UK in 2013 and in Ghent, Belgium in 2017. Both were combined with elections of governing bodies. The board appointed in Ghent included Andrzej Affek, a representative of Poland, as treasurer.  The next European IALE Congress  “Making the future, learning from the past”, co-organized by the Polish Association for Landscape Ecology, will be held in Warsaw. It was originally planned to take place in 2021, but due to the Covid 19 outbreak it has been postponed to July 2022. 

It is difficult to say about the future of the discussed research direction. However, it seems that the development of modern science is increasingly moving towards team and multidisciplinary research. Therefore, there is a growing need for discussion between specialists with different educational backgrounds. At the same time, the increasing anthropopression of natural environment causes the increase of conflict situations, the solution of which requires more and more often the use of innovative actions, not applied in the past. Generally, therefore, the situation seems to be favorable for the development and deepening of comprehensive studies, especially studies on ecological aspects of landscape function. 


[1]  Carl Troll traveled extensively, first in South America, then in Africa. In 1933-1934 he was the scientific leader of a German expedition to Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas, during which 16 people died and only two, including Troll, survived.

[2] The quarterly journal Ecology published by the conference organizers was published from 1982 as Ekológia (ČSSR), from 1990 as Ekológia (ČSFR), and from 1993 as Ekológia (Bratislava).

[3] There have been 10 world congresses of IALE. They were held in Roskilde, Denmark in 1984, Monaster (Münster), Germany in 1987, Ottawa, Canada in 1991, Toulouse, France in 1995, Snowmass Village, USA in 1999, Darwin, Australia in 2003, Wageningen, Netherlands in 2007, Beijing, China in 2011, Portland, USA in 2015, Milan, Italy in 2019.  

[4] Richling A., Solon J. 1994, „Ekologia krajobrazu”, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, PWN, Warszawa.

[5] Pietrzak M. 2010. „Podstawy i zastosowania ekologii krajobrazu”, Państw. Wyższa Szkoła Zawodowa im J.A. Komeńskiego, Leszno.

[6] Beroutchachvili  N.L., 1986, „Czetyrie izmierienija łandszafta”  (Chetyrie Izmierienya Landshafta),  Myśl, Moskwa

[7] Moss M.R., Milne R.J. (eds), 1999,  “Landscape Synthesis – Concepts and Applications”, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph, Canada, Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland.