What are landscape approaches?

Everyone is talking about ‘the landscape approach’, but what does it actually mean?

The concept of integrated landscape management (ILM) has risen up the global development agenda in recent years. Although interpreted in different ways, there is widespread agreement that integrated approaches are critical to addressing the triple challenge of sustaining a growing human population, preventing biodiversity collapse, and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Landscape approaches recognize the interconnections between people and nature in places where productive land uses – such as agriculture, livestock, mining – compete with environmental and biodiversity goals. Such systems-based approaches aim to allocate and manage land to simultaneously achieve social, economic and environmental objectives, while preserving ecosystems and the essential services they provide.

On the ground, applying landscape approaches requires an understanding of complex multifunctional ecosystems and the roles played by all actors, as well as potential synergies and trade-offs. This sensitivity to local conditions is what makes each landscape approach unique.

Harmonizing the needs of both people and the planet

Faced with interconnected and escalating threats to our climate, our ecosystems and human well-being, countries around the world are recognizing the need for a systems-based approach to solving these crises. The land use sector accounts for an estimated 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions and has contributed to the degradation of over one third of the world’s landscapes. This has resulted in trillions of annual economic losses and the loss of livelihood for over 1 billion people.

Landscape approaches can help address multiple challenges, such as land degradation, climate change, poverty and food insecurity, and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Achieving the SDGs requires such an approach – one that focuses on place-based, as opposed to sector-based, development.

Landscapes for Our Future

Landscape approaches are central to the European Union’s ambitious post-2020 biodiversity and food systems agendas, as well as to an inclusive green recovery consistent with the EU Green Deal. In 2019, the EU launched the five-year Landscapes for Our Future programme, which now supports 23 ILM projects, spanning 20 countries and 3 subregions across the Global South.

Offering solutions to context-specific land use challenges, Landscapes for Our Future will advance goals relating to: (i) food and nutrition security, job creation and resilient and sustainable agriculture; (ii) climate change mitigation and adaptation; and (iii) biodiversity and land/forest ecosystems

  IPCC. 2019. Special Report on Climate Change and Land – Summary for policymakers. https://www.ipcc.ch/2019/08/08/land-is-a-critical-resource_srccl/  
  Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. 2018. The New Climate Economy. https://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/executive-summary/ 
  IPBES. 2018. The assessment report on land degradation and restoration. https://ipbes.net/assessment-reports/ldr 

conservation, restoration and sustainable use. The projects cover a wide range of themes, ranging from biodiversity and landscape conservation to climate-smart agriculture and sustainable value chain development.