Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses

Agricultural fields with different crops


“Landscape approaches” provide tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals. 

Sayer et al. (2024) synthesise the current consensus on landscape approaches – based on a rigorous review of published literature and a consensus-building process to define the good practice, validated by a survey of practitioners. 

Interestingly, their literature review fails to identify a universal definition for a landscape approach. The authors find that the landscape approach has been refined in response to increasing societal concerns about the environment and development tradeoffs. 

In particular, there has been a shift from conservation-orientated perspectives toward increasing integration of poverty alleviation goals. For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) “Landscapes and Livelihoods” initiative, explicitly addresses the dual goals of environmental conservation and poverty alleviation.

10 summary principles to support the implementation of a landscape approach as it is currently interpreted

  • Continual learning and adaptive management; 
  • Common concern entry point; 
  • Multiple scales; 
  • Multifunctionality; 
  • Multiple stakeholders; 
  • Negotiated and transparent change logic;
  • Clarification of rights and responsibilities; 
  • Participatory and user-friendly monitoring; 
  • Resilience; 
  • Strengthened stakeholder capacity.

                                                           Source: Sayer et al. (2024)


These principles emphasise adaptive management, stakeholder involvement, and multiple objectives. Various constraints are recognised, with institutional and governance concerns identified as the most severe obstacles to implementation.