In­tro­duc­tion to Land­scape Chains

Global change of agricultural landscapes is a major sustainability concern. Agricultural landscape change is driven by a multitude of typically closely interlinked processes: First, agricultural land is expanding globally, converting natural and semi-natural ecosystems and thus compromising biosphere integrity and biogeophysical processes in land systems. Second, rising societal needs to provide food, feed, fibres, and fuels also lead to an intensification of agriculture. Third, an increasing amount of (often fertile) agricultural land is sealed and converted to cities, with substantial impacts on agricultural production, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Consequently, competition for land, land use conflicts, and trade-offs between human needs and landscape functions have become critical topics for landscape management.

At the same time, large-scale processes of de-intensification, forest expansion, designation of protected areas, and land abandonment are taking place, often leading to a polarization of either intensification or abandonment of agriculture. The need for understanding these complex and opposite processes has given rise to the interdisciplinary fields of landscape and land-change science. Agricultural landscape changes – though appearing at local levels – are increasingly driven by globally interconnected economies and markets. The complexity of these connections between distant places (so-called telecouplings) poses threats, but also opportunities for sustainability. Accordingly, questions of how to identify patterns, trade-offs, and options for sustainable landscape management across different levels, issues, and places are considered grand scholarly challenges.

The overall objective is to identify leverage points in the value chains of landscape products that support a transition to sustainable landscape management, accounting for social and ecological trade-offs across scales and users.

The overarching hypothesis to be explored is that landscape products empower consumers to connect to producer landscapes and to valorize social-ecological landscape characteristics through multiple flows of goods, investment and information along value chains.

This project contributes to the Global Land Programme glp.earth.