There are two main meanings for the word landscape: it can refer to the visible features of an area of land, or to an example of the genre of painting that depicts such an area of land. Landscape, in both senses, includes the physical elements of landforms such as (ice-capped) mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms ofland use, buildings and structures, and transitory elements such as lighting and weather conditions.
Combining both their physical origins and the cultural overlay of human presence, often created over millennia, landscapes reflect a living synthesis of people and place that is vital to local and national identity. The character of a landscape helps define the self-image of the people who inhabit it and a sense of place that differentiates one region from other regions. It is the dynamic backdrop to people’s lives. Landscape can be as varied as farmland, alandscape park, or wilderness.
The earth has a vast range of landscapes, including the icy landscapes of polar regions, mountainous landscapes, vast arid desert landscapes, islands and coastal landscapes, densely forested or wooded landscapes including pastboreal forests and tropical rainforests, and agricultural landscapes of temperate and tropical regions.
Landscape may be further considered under the following categories: landscape art, cultural landscape, landscape ecology, landscape planning, landscape assessment and landscape design. The activity that modifies the visible features of an area of land is named landscaping.