Two main aspects can define a landscape machine: for one, its identification as ‘machine’ should be taken quite literally. These are machines that have a certain material input and output and are driven by a critical amount of energy input. For example, in the estuaries of the south-west Netherlands landscape machines can be related to water, salt, sediments and surplus nutrients as input, and clean water, food, blue energy and silted-up lands as output. Their fuels are solar energy, enabling photosynthesis, providing heat, and tidal forces influenced by the moon. The rationale behind the design includes coastal defence, sustainable fisheries and agriculture and nature development goals. 

Secondly, the natural processes within the landscape machine are continuously interfering with each other and therefore affecting the type, shape, size and position of the resulting landscape components. The landscape machine is evolving through interaction with physical, chemical and ecological processes. Its mechanical components are natural processes or the specific behaviour of flocks of animals that themselves are affected by on-going events. This implies that parts of the machine may fade out or even vanish and that new functional parts may come into being. The landscape changes, the machine changes, but the input does not change. A key difference between conventional farmland and a landscape machine is that succession is not prevented in the latter.