The Science and Practice of Landscape Stewardship: New book out

by Claudia Bieling & Tobias Plieninger

Worldwide, place-based and holistic initiatives that strive for an integrated landscape development are on the rise. At the heart of these initiatives are the awareness and actions of people for the multiple landscape values that they perceive as crucial for their own well-being. All such collaborative efforts for achieving landscape sustainability may be understood as expressions of landscape stewardship. But what are the underlying principles of stewardship approaches? How do they work in different fields of application such as agriculture or cultural heritage preservation? And how can landscape stewardship be conceptualized in order to advance our systemic understanding of the success and failure of sustainability transformations? Answers to these questions are provided by the recently released book “The Science and Practice of Landscape Stewardship”.

The landscape approach towards sustainability is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant perspectives today. It moves beyond sectoral top-down strategies that have been proven unsuccessful for dealing with the complex and interconnected character of current challenges such as biodiversity loss, climate change or diminishing livelihoods of people in rural areas. Not only a management approach, but even more an ethic that emphasizes responsibility, collaboration, participation, and communication in the planning and management of land resources, landscape stewardship:

* seeks to simultaneously improve food production, biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage and other landscape values;

* involves coordinated action across sectors and spatial and administrative units;

* works at a landscape scale and includes deliberate planning, policy or management at this scale;

* is self-organized and highly participatory; and

* values a diversity of perspectives and “ways of knowing”.

Examples of landscape stewardship initiatives are numerous, and several of them have been featured in this blog. Likewise, the scientific community has come up with theoretical considerations. However, a synthesis of the existing manifold concepts and experiences is missing. Addressing this gap, a volume edited by HERCULES researchers Claudia Bieling and Tobias Plieninger brings together contributions from leading scholars in the field and innovative models of landscape stewardship from around the world. “The Science and Practice of Landscape Stewardship” (Cambridge University Press) aims to provide an analytical and comparative perspective on the scientific underpinning and practical implementation of landscape stewardship.

A first section of the volume is dedicated towards enhancing the understanding of the foundations of landscape stewardship. Contributions expand on ecological foundations as well as the human and social dimensions, but also partnerships for stewardship and citizen-science approaches.

Part II moves to the practical application of landscape stewardship. In then chapters we analyse how landscape stewardship works in different context and fields of application, such as rangelands, marine environments, urban landscapes, cultural heritage conservation, renewable energy supply, or recreation and tourism.

Part III takes a future-oriented perspective, exploring and substantiating visions of landscape stewardship in three chapters. We discuss its role in the global sustainability agenda, explore the potential of arts-based approaches, and spell out suggestions for transforming planning towards stewardship.

To increase the practical and policy relevance, the scholarly book chapters are complemented by a collection of cases of good practices, for instance a multisensory journey towards celebrating the rich tradition of sheep farming in Dartmoor, UK (One Hut Full), or a French initiative for enabling access to land in the long term (Terre de Liens). These illustrative cases exemplify the principles of landscape stewardship and can serve as models to inspire implementation in other areas.

More information on the book, including an overview of the different chapters and authors, can be found here.