Course:CONS200/2021/The Landscape Approach: Principles, Impacts and Its Role in Conservation

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1 Introduction

In recent years, the landscape approach (LA), as well as multifunctional land management, has grown in popularity amongst organizations on a globalized scale, as they strive to promote sustainable development.[1] The landscape approach can be broadly understood as a framework that allows policy integration and practice for a variety of land uses, within a designated area, to secure honourable and sustainable usage of the land, in an effort to ultimately fight and adapt to climate change.[2] Furthermore, the primary objective of landscape approaches is to solve the extensive amount of environmental, social, and political issues which extend beyond traditional management boundaries and approaches. [2] To be more specific, landscape approaches with a focus on the land-sharing philosophy have grown its reputation in the scientific community and in practice, as it offers an alternative solution for conventional, sectoral land-use planning, and other traditional policy and governing practices.[3]

2 The Framework

The Landscape Transition Curve

2.1 Theoretical Principals

The landscape approach is defined as having a series of distinct principles that ultimately allow for the restoration of agriculture, conservation, and other additional usages.[4] The first principle involves consistent learning and continual adaptations in management, meaning there needs to be a constant flow of changes and developments to respond to a growing number of issues in order for the landscape approach to run successfully.[4] Additionally, it is clear that the landscape approach should exist on multiple scales, with mutual trust and understanding amongst multiple stakeholders working alongside one another.[4] Further principles necessary for success within the landscape approach include multi-functionality in terms of landscape usage and purpose, definite rules and regulations for resources, widespread available and concrete data/information to learn from, and finally, resilience.[4] If these series of principles outlined are implemented by users, the result will be successful participation and corporation, as well as the implementation of an effective landscape approach.

2.2 Implementation & Integration

This alternative approach regarding “joined-up” thinking amongst a variety of stakeholders to manage land in the most effective means on a landscape scale has been refined and developed in recent history, however, this definition and implementation is often difficult to track.[2] When considering the implementation of the landscape approach, it is necessary to understand what a “landscape” is referencing. For example, a landscape can be assigned to a wide array of elements including geomorphology, biophysics, manufacturing and consumption space, or finally to place of value.[3] Additionally, it is important to note that these elements are all correlated with the landscape approach, however, not all landscape approaches contain these factors.[3] The rationale behind the integration process of the landscape approach has been attributed to three distinct issues. Firstly, to address the troubles amongst the ability of sectoral approach in realizing the interests of external sectors to an appropriate extent.[3] Secondly, to handle issues referred to as “wicked problems” including unpredictable elements of changes in climate, biodiversity loss, or sustainability issues.[3] Thirdly, to account for the imbalances and inequalities amongst individuals with varying interests regarding land claims and the resources they hold.[3] In conclusion, the implementation and integration of the landscape approach is a complex issue that is often varied and difficult to track.

2.3 The Effect of the Landscape Approach

The effect of the landscape approach is one that aims to address the increasing rates of global environmental, political, and social issues that go beyond the limits of traditional management systems.[2] Moreover, these conventional and traditional post-war strategies directed towards food production, development, and conservation initiatives are recognized as outdated, as they are no longer feasible nor sustainable solutions to address these issues.[2] Through time, these landscape approaches with an emphasis on an integrated land-sharing approach have risen in popularity in science and practice, as it serves to represent an alternative option to traditional methods, policy, and governance.[3] Additionally, this approach seeks to create a balance between competing demands toward land through an integration of adaptive and connected management systems.[2] This balance includes elements larger than simply the physical characteristics of the landscape involved, rather, incorporating elements of internal and external socio-economic and socio-political aspects that play a role in land use as it relates to conservation and agriculture.[2]Furthermore, these approaches have been promoted and recognized as being major contributors in policy, governance, and management techniques through their ability to emphasize space and scale sensitivity. [3] Finally, these approaches have been shown to have an effect on the understanding of the linkages within humans and their surroundings.[3] For example, individuals do not connect themselves with abstract concepts such as “biodiversity”, instead, to physical landscapes and structures they recognize and interact with.[3] In conclusion, the effect of the landscape approach is one that continues to have a large impact, and will continue to grow and adapt as time progresses.

3 The Impacts and Outcomes

As mentioned above, landscapes are continuously modified to meet aesthetic and functional needs by people who live in and use them. The term “landscape approach” is used to define a more comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach. [5]

3.1 Social Impacts

    The concept of landscape approach has been widely supported and implemented by both private and public institutions such as governments, private organizations and international development agencies. To be more specific, the landscape approach focuses on the process-oriented activities which are different from project-oriented programs. In order to implement landscape approaches and achieve effectiveness , all levels of intervention and departments involved in this process from problem definition to management has been changed since putting landscape approach into effect is a long-term, iterative process.[5] What’s more, these approaches enable the landscape to accommodate multiple stakeholders' interests, meet the needs of multifunction and clarify the responsibilities of each stakeholder in the whole process.[6] Thus, the landscape approach unites many institutions so that conservation is no longer a personal issue. For example, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership is a multi-stakeholder partnership founded in 2002 which articulates the programmes around 12 priority landscapes, and all these landscapes span roughly 680,300 km², spread across Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.The landscape approach to biodiversity conservation increasingly promotes regional integration. In fact, most ecological landscapes extend beyond international borders, highlighting the need for regional cooperation and integration in implementing conservation programs. [5] [7]

3.2 Ecological impacts

Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape is located in Democratic Republic of the Congo

   Overall, from the perspective of conservation, the landscape approach helps to conserve, maintain and restore biodiversity and ecosystem services (Sayer et al., 2017).As mentioned in 1.3.1, these landscapes will make adjustments and interventions according to their own needs. For instance, in view of the unsustainable hunting and lacking management are the main threats in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba landscape, various departments will be combined to carry out effective supervision and control. [7]

   Also, the landscape provides for the sustainable production of crops, livestock, forest, and other wild resources.[5] To be more specific, trees can be planted as hedges in farmland, as shade in parks or home gardens, and can also be used as plantations for production. Agroforestry is a good example since it is a landscape system that integrates trees into farmlands and rural landscapes to enhance productivity, profitability, diversity and ecosystem sustainability. [8] Thus, trees are managed together with crops or animal production systems to increase economic and environmental benefits for all scales of land users.

3.3 Limitations

     Unlike traditional projects, landscape approaches are long-term and iterative processes, so it is hard to measure their effectiveness and impacts at a single end point. Moreover, landscapes are large and diverse socio-ecological systems. Therefore, the complexity, uncertainty, and uniqueness of each landscape are inimical to analyze the outcomes and impacts.[5]

3.4 Case Study

Hopea ponga
Mawphlang Sacred Forests

Although the sacred groves play an important role in conservation in India, the landscape that surrounds groves also have a vital influence on biodiversity. The study highlights the importance of landscape approach by analyzing how landscape approaches contribute to the vibration in species richness. To be more specific, the landscape reduced the intensity of the species loss and maintained the similarity in species distribution in or out of the groves. What’s more, the landscapes outside the forest reserve preserve species that are not protected by the traditional reserve network. Threatened tree species such as Actinodaphne lawsonii Gamble and Hopea ponga were only found in the landscapes but not in the forest reserve. [9]

4 Limitations and challenges

4.1 Supportive polices

Multifunctional land management has contributed to agricultural activities, livelihood strategies of households and rural development, especially for some developing countries. However, the establishment of supporting policies are still the limitation of multifunctional land management for extensive application. [10] As the importance of multifunctional land management is closely related to sustainable development, it would not be considered as valuable if the multifunctional land management cannot aim precisely to the understanding and promotion of sustainable development. The long-term efficiency of documented studies is questionable, moreover, it can be caused by several potential changing goals during the time, and the adaption of the policies in different regions.

Homogenous Land Use in Latin American

The other key point is that the economically backward in particular areas could potentially limit the application of multifunctional land management due to dependence of primary products for export earnings. As the results shown by Barbier[11], expansion of cultivated land has been continued for decades in order to develop economies in Latin American and Caribbean. The homogenous land usage is meant to provide sufficient agricultural areas, industrial forestry and grazing pasture. Based on the conditions in certain areas, the multifunctional land use is quite challenging to be applied for local government. Therefore, Barbier [11] indicates that the targeted policies are required for both modern sector and traditional cultivation areas on the mainland.

In other respects, the lack of  proper supportive incentives and policies can also affect the efficiency of applying multifunctional land use. For instance, subsidies seeds, saplings, fertilizers, and pesticides were provided by governments which resulted in unexpected effects such as overuse of fertilizers and pesticides and more homogeneous cultivation in certain areas in northwestern China.[12] It is much more convincing if farmers can be incentivized by conserving ecology instead of only supported by the government for agricultural production. The Loess Plateau region in China can be considered as a positive example of land management. It offered multiple ecological services such as food production, soil conservation, and water availability for local residences and even the downstream users[12]. It definitely could be an example worth learning by Latin American and Caribbean.

To conclude, most of the limitations that multifunctional projects face are due to the absence of effective and targeted policies supported by local governments. The promotion and incentive policies can largely encourage the applications of multifunctional land management.

5 Potential and Future Development

There is much potential and future development to be found and accessed through the landscape approach. Notably, the research community plays a fundamental role in the continual advancement of landscape approaches, in theory, and in practice. Any future applications of the landscape approach will require trans-disciplinary effort to properly address socio-economic and environmental trade-offs facing both people and nature in landscapes.[13] In addition to this, power asymmetries within the landscape approach must be properly addressed and dealt with.[14] Specifically, decision-making should become more integrative and inclusive for women, youth, and other marginalized groups.[15][16][17] That being said, funding for such long-term endeavors is hard to come by, with most donors opting to support projects for 2-3 years typically.[18] Therefore, acquiring adequate funding over an appropriate period of time is one major challenge, amongst others that the landscape approach faces going forward.

If this funding is secured for an adequate amount of time, the landscape approach could be highly successful in a variety of applications. As the landscape approach is further implemented in various locations and situations, the strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures will only serve as markers or guidelines for future efforts.

5.1 Pre-Conditions to Success for the Landscape Approach

In review of seven landscapes which utilized the landscape approach, ten underlying conditions of success were identified.[18]

  1. Inspired leadership from conservation organizations is essential to the continued success of the landscape approach, as well as leadership from the private sector.
  2. Long-term, adaptive commitment as landscapes are dynamic. Changing behaviour takes continued effort and time, and deep understanding of the situation.
  3. Facilitation on some level is necessary, but alone not sufficient to achieve landscape-scale outcomes. Locals, companies, and the administration have little incentive to respect group decisions, unless in cases where decisions were enforceable by companies or administration.
  4. Value propositions will motivate engagement, where when incentive is given individuals and companies are much more likely to engage favourably with landscape-scale processes.
  5. Conflicts must be openly addressed, where financial incentives or legal restrictions are necessary to guarantee compliance with agreements.
  6. Systemic governance is essential to the success of the landscape-approach. This includes agreements being enforceable by law, cadastral records being in place, and land rights being fully recognized.
  7. Private sector engagement is instrumental to the success of the landscape-approach.
  8. Policies put in place without budgets or commitments are not successful, even when supported by political figures and local administrations. They must be on some level backed by fund allocations to be successful.
  9. Formalizations and monitoring of process outcomes is eventually required, where landscape agreements must at some point become backed by legal measures to ensure long-term sustainable success.
  10. Metrics must be developed and tracked to establish values, progress, and enable adaptive management. Demands regarding the landscapes will change with time, so comprehensive information on the current situation of the landscape is necessary to ensure that adaptations can adequately be put in place for the future.


In conclusion, this new and promising strategy does achieve many conservation goals to a great extent since it is a multifunctional land management strategy which combines unique principles regarding not only conservation, but also other environmental, social, and political issues. What’s more, unlike the traditional projects, the landscape approach enables more organizations and institutions to participate in the process of implementing the entire plan, because it requires multifaceted cooperation in order to satisfy their respective needs and interests. However, including multiple stakeholders will make the strategy more influential, but it will also cause some potential limitations and challenges. In order to maximize benefits and effectiveness, sufficient and effective policy support is particularly important. In addition, funding is also one of the key factors affecting the success or failure of the entire program. Moreover, some marginalized groups such as women and youth should also be integrated in the process of implementing landscape approaches. If all the above-mentioned problems are solved, this project will have a considerable development in the future. Although the effectiveness of this project is difficult to measure since it's long-term and iterative, it still has the great potential to reach the final goal and achieve success.


  1. Erbaugh, J., & Agrawal, A. (2017). "Clarifying the landscape approach: A letter to the editor on "Integrated landscape approaches to managing social and environmental issues in the tropics". Global Change Biology. 23(11): 4453–4454.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Reed, J., Deakin, L. & Sunderland, T. (2015). "What are 'Integrated Landscape Approaches' and how effectively have they been implemented in the tropics: a systematic map protocol". Environmental Evidence. 4, 2.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Arts, B., Buizer, M., Horlings, L., Ingram, V., van Oosten, C., & Opdam, P. (2017). "Landscape approaches: A state-of-the-art review. Annual Review of Environment and Resources". Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 42: 439–463.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Sayer, J., Sunderland, T., Ghazoul, J., Pfund, J. L., Sheil, D., Meijaard, E., Venter, M., Boedhihartono, A. K., Day, M., Garcia, C., van Oosten, C., & Buck, L. E. (2013). "Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110(21): 8349–8356.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Jeffrey A. Sayer, Chris Margules, Agni K. Boedhihartono, Terry Sunderland, James D. Langston, James Reed, Rebecca Riggs, Louise E. Buck, Bruce M. Campbell, Koen Kusters, Chris Elliott, Peter A. Minang, Allan Dale, Herry Purnomo, James R. Stevenson, Petrus Gunarso & Agus Purnomo (2017). "Measuring the effectiveness of landscape approaches to conservation and development". Sustainability Science.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. Jeffrey Sayer, Terry Sunderland, Jaboury Ghazoul, Jean-Laurent Pfund, Douglas Sheil, Erik Meijaard, Michelle Venter, Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono, Michael Day, Claude Garcia, Cora van Oosten, and Louise E. Buck (2013). "Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Transboundary landscapes". Congo Basin Forest Partnership.
  8. Turley, Laura (2016). "The Landscape Approach Moving towards sustainable land use patterns" (PDF). State of Sustainability Initiatives.
  9. Bhagwat, Shonil, A; Kushalappa, Cheppudira, G; Williams, Paul, H; Brown, Nick, D (Dec, 2005). "A Landscape Approach to Biodiversity Conservation of Sacred Groves in the Western Ghats of India". Conservation Biology. 19(6): 1853–1862. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. Renting, J. (2019). [doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2008.11.014 "Exploring multifunctional agriculture. a review of conceptual approaches and prospects for an integrative transitional framework"] Check |url= value (help). Journal of Environmental Management.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Barbier, Edward; Bugas, John (2014). "Structural change, marginal land and economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean". Lat Am Econ Rev 23, 3 (2014). doi: Check |doi= value (help).
  12. 12.0 12.1 Zhang, Lulu; Schwärzel, Kai (2017). "Implementation of Multifunctional Land Management: Research Needs". Multifunctional Land-Use Systems for Managing the Nexus of Environmental Resources: 137–148. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-54957-6_8.
  13. Reed, J; Ickowitz, A; Chervier, C; Djoudi, H; Moombe, K; Ros-Tonen, M; Yanou, M; Yuliani, L; Sunderland, T (2020). "Integrated landscape approaches in the tropics: A brief stock-take". Land use policy. 104822: 99 – via ScienceDirect.
  14. Clay, N (2016). "Geoforum Producing hybrid forests in the Congo Basin : a political ecology of the landscape approach to conservation". Geoforum. 76: 130–141 – via Elsevier Ltd.
  15. Hart, A.K; et al. (2015). "Integrated landscape initiatives in practice: assessing experiences from 191 landscapes in Africa and latin America". Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice, World Agroforestry Centre: 89–102 – via P.A. Minang (Ed.). Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)
  16. Ros-Tonen, M.A.F; Reed, J.; Sunderland, T. (2018). "From synergy to complexity: the trend toward integrated value chain and landscape governance". Environ. Manage. – via SpringerLink.
  17. Ros-Tonen, M.A.F; et al. (2015). "Landscapes of social inclusion: inclusive value-chain collaboration through the lenses of food sovereignty and landscape governance". 27. 4: 523–540 – via Eur. J. Dev. Res. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Sayer, J.; et al. (2014). "Landscape approaches; what are the pre-conditions for success?" (PDF). Sustainability Science. 10 (2): 345–355 – via Springer. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)

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