Hercules (project completed)

The Hercules project is a completed project. Their project page can be visited here.

Project Description

The HERCULES project strives for the empowerment of public and private actors to protect, manage, and plan for sustainable landscapes at local, national, and Pan-European scales

European cultural landscapes are valued as everyday living environment, countryside, heritage, scenery with aesthetic and recreational qualities and unique biodiversity, and as a source of ecosystem services that they provide to society. Cultural landscapes, however, are undergoing rapid and fundamental transformations across Europe, mainly as a result of an on-going polarization of land use, with abandonment and rural exodus on the one hand, and intensification and (peri-) urbanisation on the other. So far, substantial challenges have inhibited the design of effective responses to safeguard social-ecological landscapes values.

The HERCULES project strives for the empowerment of public and private actors to protect, manage, and plan for sustainable cultural landscapes at local, national, and pan-European scales. HERCULES has the goal to increase understanding of drivers, patterns and social-ecological values of European cultural landscapes and to use this knowledge to develop, test and demonstrate strategies for their protection, management and planning. Key research aims include the following:

(a) synthesise existing knowledge on drivers, patterns, and outcomes of persistence and change in Europe’s cultural landscapes;

(b) perfom targeted case studies to develop in-depth insights on dynamics and values of cultural landscapes;

(c) develop a typology of cultural landscapes and scale-up case study insights using observations and landscape modeling;

(d) develop visions for re-coupling social and ecological components in cultural landscapes and translate them into policy and management options; and

(e) design and implement a community-based Knowledge Hub for Global Landscape Practice and demonstrate it with land users, agencies, small and medium-sized entreprises, and citizen associations.


HERCULES builds on the development and application of innovative technologies and tools for understanding, managing and protecting cultural landscapes. The project follows the European Landscape Convention’s call for transdisciplinary research and involves all actors with stakes in cultural landscapes of social-ecological value. The insights, technologies and strategies developed in HERCULES will be tested and applied in nine comparative study landscapes, purposefully selected to span major environmental and land use history gradients throughout Europe. The methods to be developed and used are diverse and include systematic review and meta-analysis techniques, multi-scale empirical landscape analyses, fine- and broad-scale landscape modelling, visioning processes, surveys, as well as development, testing and implementing of good landscape practices.

Expected Results

HERCULES will produce a broad and comprehensive range of outputs that are targeted to communities of science, practice and policy around cultural landscapes, among others:

  • Meta-analytic database of literature and expert knowledge on cultural landscape transformation case studies
  • Well-documented case studies on the long- and short term histories and change in cultural landscapes
  • Pan-European cultural landscape typology and map, validated by citizen engagement through crowdsourcing
  • New modelling approaches to assess future landscape developments and policy impacts on cultural landscapes
  • Roadbook for the management of heritage values in landscape sensitive to diverse environmental and societal contexts
  • Policy recommendations based on analysing the successes and failures of instruments across various levels and policy domains
  • Community-based Knowledge Hub for Good Landscape Stewardship
  • Series of tests and demonstrations of the use of the developed tools in case-studies and within a policy making context

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement 603447.

Key Publications

Fischer, J., Hartel, T. & Kuemmerle, T. (2012): Conservation policy in traditional farming landscapes. Conservation Letters 5: 167-175.

Hersperger, A.M., Gennaio, M.P., Verburg, P.H., Bürgi, M. (2010): Linking land change with driving forces and actors: four conceptual models. Ecology and Society 15 (4): 1.

Kizos, T., Koulouri, M., Vakoufaris, H., Psarrou, M. (2010): Preserving characteristics of the agricultural landscape through agri-environmental policies: The case of cultivation terraces in Greece. Landscape Research 35: 577-593.

Kolen, J. (2013): A Biographical Approach to Landscape: A Challenge for Landscape Research, Heritage Studies and Regional Planning. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Le Dû-Blayo, L. (2011): How do we accommodate new land uses in traditional landscapes? Remanence of landscapes, resilience of areas, resistance of people. Landscape Research 36: 417-434.

Meyer, W.J., Crumley, C.L. (2011): Historical ecology: Using what works to cross the divide. In: Moore, T., Armada, L. (eds.): Atlantic Europe in the First Millennium BC: Crossing the Divide. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 109-134.

Plieninger, T. & Bieling, C. (eds.) (2012): Resilience and the Cultural Landscape: Understanding and Managing Change in Human-Shaped Environments. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hersperger, A.M., Gennaio, M.P., Verburg, P.H. & Bürgi, M. (2010): Linking land change with driving forces and actors: four conceptual models. Ecology and Society 15 (4): 1.

Palang, H., Printsmann, A., Gyuro, E.K., Urbanc, M., Skowronek, E. & Woloszyn, W. (2006): The forgotten rural landscapes of Central and Eastern Europe. Landscape Ecology 21: 347-357.

Tkacik, G., Garrigan, P., Ratliff, C., Milcinski, G., Klein J.M., Seyfarth, L.H., Sterling, P., Brainard, D., Balasubramanian, V. (2011): Natural images from the birthplace of the human eye. PLoS ONE, 6(6): e20409.

Van der Zanden, E.H., Verburg, P.H., Mücher, C.A. (2013): Modelling the spatial distribution of linear landscape elements in Europe. Ecological Indicators 27: 125-136.

Major collaborators and affiliated institutions

Led by: Tobias Plieninger / University of Copenhagen, Denmark (Project Leader)

Kathrin Trommler / Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Project Manager)

Additional Partners: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany), Conseil Innovation Management et Environnement (France), European Landowners’ Organization (Belgium), Forest Communications (UK), Landscape Research Group (UK), Sinergise Ltd (Slovenia), VU University Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Tallinn University (Estonia), University of Freiburg (Germany), University of the Aegean (Greece), Uppsala University (Sweden)

Contact information

Kathrin Trommler: kathrin.trommler@geo.hu-berlin.de