As the global population rises and the resources that support it come under increasing pressure, the search for complementary solutions to environmental and development goals is more urgent than ever.
So it’s no surprise that the landscape approach to land allocation and management has gained prominence in recent years. The approach, according to a definitive research paper, seeks to provide “tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals.”
Titled Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation and other competing land uses, the paper offers a framework that is intentionally loose and broad. But as the approach gains traction, those who specialize in it are “being badgered” to be more specific, says Terry Sunderland, a principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and a co-author of the paper. “People are asking: What is the landscape approach? What does it represent? And why don’t we define it?”
At the latest Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) event, which just wrapped up this month in Bonn, Germany, these questions re-surfaced with intensity within the sector, but Sunderland says that defining the approach more rigidly is “something we’ve deliberately avoided doing.” While the questions are valid, he says, attempts to answer them would land the scientists “back in the same holes as we’ve been in with other processes.”
Frameworks like the landscape approach can help scientists and policymakers to look at land in similar, more holistic and integrative ways, and evidence is mounting around the benefits of working in this way.
At the GLF, Sunderland participated in a two-part discussion titled ‘Landscape restoration for food security and resilient livelihoods’ and delivered a Landscape Talk on ‘Integrated landscapes approaches: From theory to practice’ to add to the growing evidence base by sharing findings from CIFOR’s research into ecosystem services supporting agriculture.