Ten Principles of a Landscape Approach

Landscapes of rice terraces and agroforests in the highlands of Indonesian Bali have been placed on the World Heritage list for their multiple environmental, agriculture and cultural values.

By Jeffrey Sayer, Professor of Conservation & Development Practice, James Cook University School of Earth and Environmental Sciences; and Louise Buck, Director Landscapes and Leaders Program and Senior Extension Associate, EcoAgriculture Partners and Cornell University Department of Natural Resources

The use of the term ‘Landscape Approaches’ has grown substantially in the past few years, making its way into the parlance of major research organizations and development institutions. Of course, there is always the question of what is actually meant when using the term. As we saw in Wednesday’s blog post, landscapes are discussed in a variety of ways, with many commonalities and at the same time some significant divergences in parlance. Today’s blog post offers a set of principles that can help bring more definition to a landscape approach under different contexts.

Both in scientific study and among professionals, landscape approaches that reduce trade-offs and pursue synergies among diverse goals for land and resources are gaining attention. Those ‘landscape approaches’ are increasingly seen as imperatives to expand food production and protect ecosystems, while also reducing poverty and coping with climate change through integrated planning and decision-making. How do landscape approaches differ in practice, though, from sector-based approaches? And given their diverse origins and applications, is it possible to discern best practices that can help achieve the multiple societal objectives from competing land uses in a landscape context?

Our team of twelve co-authors examined these questions to distill Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses, published in a Special Feature: Perspective in May’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). We plumbed an array of literature, engaged in extensive consultations over several years with major actors in landscape approaches, and conducted a survey of landscape initiatives to validate the consensus opinion on how to best integrate agricultural production and environmental conservation at a landscape scale. The findings are premised on the notion that people and societies must make decisions, that the quality of decision-making is a function of the process by which the decision is reached, and that achieving objectives is an ongoing process subject to negotiation, learning, adaptation, and improvement.

The 10 principles to guide decision-making processes in landscape contexts emphasize that integrating agricultural and environmental priorities requires a people-centered orientation. We target the principles to those seeking development and conservation outcomes in contexts with multiple stakeholders. A brief synopsis of the 10 principles follows. In addition to amplified discussion of each principle, the paper offers a selection of case studies, methods, and tools that might be used to help operationalize the principle in practice.

Ten Principles of a Landscape Approach

Principle 1: Continual learning and adaptive management; learning from outcomes can improve management.

Principle 2: Shared interest in an issue or problem; build solutions – even to wicked problems where parties have divergent views on possible solutions – around perceptions of common interest.

Principle 3: Multiple scales; awareness of numerous system influences and feedbacks that affect management is essential.

Principle 4: Multifunctionality; landscapes and their components have multiple uses and purposes that require tradeoffs be reconciled.

Principle 5: Multiple stakeholders; engaging them in an equitable manner is needed to ensure optimal and ethical outcomes.

Principle 6: Negotiated and transparent change logic; transparency is the basis of trust needed to avoid or overcome conflict and is helped by good governance.

Principle 7: Clarification of rights and responsibilities; rules on resource access and land use need to be clear to ensure good management and good outcomes.

Principle 8: Participatory and user-friendly monitoring; it is valuable to derive information from multiple sources.

Principle 9: Resilience; increase system-level resilience through recognition of threats and vulnerabilities and actions to reduce them.

Principle 10: Strengthened stakeholder capacity; people require the ability to participate effectively and to accept various roles and responsibilities.

Landscape approaches are no panacea; they are fraught with difficulty. And yet, they simply are the best option we have for dealing with ‘wicked’ land use problems. Therefore we will do well to gain the experience needed to become adept at making them work.

The piece is published in a special feature of PNAS, edited by Jeffrey Sayer and Kenneth Cassman, that highlights innovations in agriculture that could contribute to producing more food without increasing environmental pressures.

Read More:
Sayer, J., T. Sunderland, J. Ghazoul, J. Pfund, D. Sheil, E. Meijaard, M. Venter, A.K. Boedhihartono, M. Day, C. Garcia, C. van Oosten, and L.E. Buck. 2013. Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses. PNAS 110(21): 8349-8356.

Photo credit: Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono
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2 Responses to Ten Principles of a Landscape Approach

  1. Pingback: Ten Principles of a Landscape Approach | Innova...

  2. tmgieseke says:

    Thanks for the list. The tool I often use to meet some of these objectives is a “Governance Compass”: https://prezi.com/6dzq0blll11w/the-governance-compass/