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A Knowledge Review on Integrated Landscape Approaches

Chair of Forest Policy and Forest Resource Economics, Technische Universität Dresden, Pienner Str. 8, 01737 Tharandt, Germany
Department of Biodiversity Conservation, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), Unidad San Cristóbal, San Cristobal de las Casas 29290, Mexico
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2022, 13(2), 312;
Received: 1 December 2021 / Revised: 28 January 2022 / Accepted: 29 January 2022 / Published: 14 February 2022
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Economics, Policy, and Social Science)


Holistic and multi-transdisciplinary approaches, where multiple goals are achieved in order to improve resilience in societies and ecosystems in the short, medium, and long term, are ideal, even utopian. Hence, science has come together with practical experiences that highlight the importance of working at a ‘landscape’ level. Landscapes, as socio-ecological systems, are key for sustainability and sustainable development, and they represent a realistic unit to interconnect local, national, and ultimately global scales. International efforts regarding holistic natural resources management approaches are not new; however, they are currently pointing to an Integrated Landscape Approach (ILA). Based on a documentation review and analysis, the present article review aims to promote the disambiguation of the ILA concept and provide an updated synthesis knowledge on the ILA. Especially for the forest sector, the ILA has been identified as particularly beneficial, strongly highlighted by the scientific literature, and with an infrastructure of organizations that are encouraging it. The paper presents the rationale of the science behind the concept, as well as the main principles, we identified a variety of definitions with some significant points of overlap, we highlight the inclusion of ILAs in the current international arena and the relationship of ILA’s and Jurisdictional Approaches, and we make a review of the ILA in a challenging world of rapid change. Our review recognizes ILAs socio-ecological management strategy to reconcile conservation, development, climate change, and human well-being goals. ILAs naturally have a social and idealistic construction behind it, which might be just as necessary andsignificant as the journey toward sustainability itself.

1. Introduction

Given the unprecedented level of environmental degradation, it is urgent to align environmental, climatic, social, health, and economic agendas to sustainability principles. Despite some recent progress in addressing social and environmental challenges, emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, the human population is still growing, hundreds of millions of people remain hungry and undernourished, and global poverty is still high, remaining concentrated in developing countries [1,2]. Environmental deterioration and social conflict remain, which indicates that current understanding and effective institutions for natural resource management are still weak [3]. In addition, humanity is currently facing serious challenges and global uncertainty in many fields to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the last 100 years, land-use change has accelerated in dynamics, due to the increased demand for goods and services [4]. Land-use change has delivered socio-economic benefits, but at the cost of overexploitation of natural resources, resulting in resources and ecosystems degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change [4,5]. The primary driver of landscape conversion has been among others agricultural production (including livestock as a directly interconnected agricultural activity); indeed, it has been responsible for 80% of deforestation worldwide [6,7]. However, landscapes not only change due to human activity; from extreme events to simply time exposure, landscapes are changing.
Sectoral approaches to land management are proving to be inadequate for balancing socio-economic complexities and environmental demands. In the Anthropocene era [8], there is an urgent need for integration between different sectors and stakeholders goals with a long-term view, and hopefully, we have arrived in the sub-era of synergies [9]. Integrated Landscape Approaches (ILA) or Landscape Approaches (LA) (for this research, ILAs and LAs were treated as synonymous and interchangeable concepts; in the rest of the article, the term ILAs is mainly used) are increasingly presented as a conceptual framework for holistic management and governance of sustainable landscapes. There is a wealth of literature and widespread international interest about ILAs; however, “what the landscape approach means in complex social-ecological systems is subject to a wide range of differing interpretations” [10] (p. 2). In delineation from landscape-scale thinking and cross-sectoral approaches, the ILA is “framed around multifunctionality and driven by participatory transdisciplinary/cross-sectorial processes… to determine change logic and/or clarify objectives” [10] (p. 3).
ILAs are gaining international momentum, and interest is snowballing [11,12]. On current international environmental agendas, there are several initiatives to motivate and encourage the implementation of ILAs. ILAs are supported by the research community, donors, and governments; additionally, the marketability of the concept itself is acknowledged [1,12]. However, the proliferation of similar concepts, the lack of a universal definition and vagueness, the lack of consensus in conceptual schemes, and the broad challenges of sustainability itself perhaps could lead to confusion and skepticism and slow ILA implementation or leave them too open to interpretation.

2. Objective and Methods

Based on a documentation review and analysis, the present manuscript aims to promote the disambiguation of the ILA concept. This was accomplished by investigating, analyzing, and summarizing different views and understandings of the ILA within academia and international environmental agendas as a theoretical concept and by providing an updated synthesis knowledge on the ILA. The methodology followed a desk research process of document analysis through a systematic literature review using scientific and open databases and a snowballing approach.
The steps for implementing the systematic review included (i) formulating the research questions to answer, (ii) developing a protocol for the search of literature and definition of criteria of inclusion and exclusion of documents, (iii) performing a detailed and broad literature search, (iv) screening the abstracts of the studies identified in the search, and (v) conducting a subsequently revision of the selected complete texts in order to extract the necessary data into a form designed in the protocol to summarize the included studies [13,14].
The database used for searching scientific literature with a total of 19% of the final references used in the manuscript was Web of Science. The keywords for the scientific database inquiries were: ‘Integrated Landscape Approach’, ‘Integrated Landscape Management’, ‘Landscape Approach’, ‘Landscape Sustainability’, and ‘Landscape Governance’. The snowballing strategy was used as a complementary approach to the search strategy of scientific and gray literature in Google with 77% of the total references considered in this review. A total 4% of the references used came from the results of both methods combined.
This manuscript aimed to answer the following research questions: What are the views and understandings of the ILA at the scientific and global level as a theoretical concept? What are the scientific fundaments of the ILAs? What are the key practical and attributes that define the ILA? What frameworks and system dynamics can be used to understand and implement ILAs? As our search included articles in English and Spanish only, the situation in regions with a strong publication body in other languages (e.g., the Central and Eastern European Countries) could not be included in an adequate way within the scope of this article.

3. Conceptual and Theoretical Basis of Integrated Landscape Approaches

3.1. The Landscape Scale

The landscape scale is an operational area where realistic and sound sustainable development methods can be put in place [4,11,12]. This is because landscapes are more likely to adequately link broader (global) and finer (local) scale’s actions [5]. The landscape scale is increasingly promoted as a pivotal scale or an ideal operational scale where local socio-economic interest and global environmental objectives intersect. Additionally, landscape-level investments can lead to sustainable outcomes, as well as profits [15]. According to Kienast et al. [4], there are four key reasons why working at a landscape-scale is the most suitable scale for sustainability, which are (i) to assess land-use change, (ii) to investigate the effect of land-use change on ecological processes, (iii) for spatial planning and land-use decisions, and (iv) for people’s everyday landscape maintenance.
The landscape scale is a broad concept, with no fixed or specific criteria to define it [4]. Wu [5] illustrates landscapes as multiple ecosystems over a watershed or a designated geopolitical area. At the same time, Forman and Godron [16] define landscapes as a heterogeneous land area composed of a cluster of interacting ecosystems repeated in similar form throughout. On the other hand, the European Landscape Convention defines landscape as “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors” [17]. Landscapes are shaped by socio-political, ecological, technological, cultural, and economic aspects [11,18]. Landscapes are also defined by the specific management objectives in a particular spatial extent [10]. Additionally, landscapes stand for certain values of society as a whole, e.g., freedom, sustainability, and democracy [19]. In summary, landscapes encompass diverse geophysical/spatial, social, environmental, and economical components on a mosaic of different land-use goals (including coastal sea-land interactions or ‘seascapes’), multiple ecosystems, and functions in a determined time and space.
Sustainability, as well as landscapes, depend on the particular social, cultural, economic, political, and spatial contexts [5]. According to Wu [5], the relevance of work at a landscape-scale for sustainability and sustainable development (for Wu [5], sustainable development implies creating and maintaining opportunities, where ecosystem services, products, and biodiversity are sustained to develop human well-being, including the economy) is also rooted in the Panarchy theory of the adaptive cycle (according to Gunderson and Holling a panarchy is a model of linked, hierarchically arranged adaptive cycles that represents the cross-scale dynamic interactions among the levels of a system and considers the interplay between change and persistence [20]), where transformations in human and natural systems are nested at different spatial (global, national, landscape, and local) and temporal scales (short–long transformation cycles) simultaneously.
The definition of the landscape scale for an ILA implementation is context-specific. Therefore, it is impractical to define a threshold of hectares of a landscape unit as a scale for ILAs. However, to make the ILA operational within an interdisciplinary perspective, it is crucial to understand the landscape as a boundary concept, a material and clear entity, in a defined space and area [18,19]. A broad idea of the landscape-size was illustrated by Pfund [21], who analyzed 51 ILA case studies where 50% of the case studies’ physical scales fell in the range of 100 to 10,000 km2. The interactions between social and ecological systems determine the particular landscape properties, land uses, and land cover types [10]. Therefore, it is key to have an understanding of the landscape system as a whole with such spatial complexity and interactions between different functions [10].
A very particular acknowledgement for the landscape concept in Spanish-speaking countries is that the landscape itself might be better understood or accepted by stakeholders as the concept of ‘territory’ [22]. However, a connection or conceptual recognition of ‘territory’ as a synonym for ‘landscape’ was not observed in the general literature of ILAs. Nevertheless, studies by Spanish-speaking geographers have indicated that human perception is the only main differentiation between ‘landscape’ and ‘territory’ [23]. Other authors note that the ‘landscape’ corresponds to the image of a fragment of a ‘territory’ [24]. With a special focus on indigenous territorial autonomy, Jimenez-Montoya [25] elaborates on the preference of the term ‘territory’ instead of ‘land’ to reflect the specific perception of indigenous peoples about their surroundings and how that perception differs from other groups of the population and decision-makers. In most European languages, the prefix ‘land’ of the Germanic languages (landscape, Landschaft, landschap) or ‘pais’ of the Latin language (paisaje, paisatge, paysage, paesaggio) refer to a singular and identifiable territory [24]. The review made by Barrasa [26] of the Ibero-American Colloquium of Territory and Landscape highlights the tendency to look for differences in approaches or definitions and encourages looking for similarities and common approaches, especially complementary ones [26]. Researchers and practitioners on landscapes and ILAs have to acknowledge that there is no single term to refer to them, and that language and terminology of these concepts are context-dependent. Additional key words or local names must exist to specifically express what landscapes, and therefore ILAs, are [27].

3.2. The Science behind Integrated Landscape Approaches

In the early 20th century, the aerial perspective on landscapes through photography inspired the term ‘Landscape Ecology’, which was first coined by Carl Troll and considered the ‘marriage between biology and geography’ [4]. Additionally, the Island Biogeography theory, developed by R. MacArthur and E. O. Wilson, was an influential model in the development of landscape-scale thinking; this was used to examine different landscape patches and their consequences on ecological processes [4,28,29]. Landscape research is not new, and it became more visible in the late 1980s [30]. In 1987, the international scientific journal ‘Landscape Ecology’ was published, and one year later, in 1988, the International Association of Landscape Ecology (IALE) was formed. This new perspective of thinking on broader scales and multiple functions was a stimulus in the evolving views of natural scientists [31]. The IALE defines Landscape Ecology as the study of spatial variation in landscapes at a variety of scales; it includes the biophysical and societal causes and consequences of landscape heterogeneity [4].
According to Arts et al. [18] (p. 7), ‘there is no single scientific domain that can claim ownership over the concept [ILA], as the integrated nature of landscape approaches contrasts with the disciplinary organization of science’. Likewise, Arts et al. [18] also recognize that disciplines such as forestry, ecology, geography, economy, anthropology, sociology, and environmental sciences are of great compatibility and complementarity to the interest of the ILA. Due to the challenging implications of multi- and transdisciplinary work of the ILA, it is clear that the discipline of sustainability science is particularly capable of elaborating on the ILA [18], as the ILA can derive from sustainability indicators [32]. However, while sustainability science could be considered the ‘mother’ or the ‘home’ of the ILA, it does not provide the scale and field-based certainty. Purvis et al. [33] highlights the difficulty of operationalizing sustainability and the need to consider context-specific, spatial, and functional limits for its eventual application.
Landscape Sustainability (LS) science appears in the literature as a much younger science than Landscape Ecology (LE) science. LE and LS overlap in some theoretical elements, but they may vary in research emphasis [5]. As stated by Wu [5] (p. 1015), ‘Landscape Ecology is the science of studying and improving the relationship between spatial pattern and ecological processes, while Landscape Sustainability science focuses on the dynamic relationship between ecosystem (or landscape) services and human well-being in changing social, economic, and environmental conditions’. Other authors state that the classic LE mainly considers the ecological processes of landscape systems [34], but that the contemporary LE research considers the sustainable landscape development, also including the human dimension (socio-economical sciences) [4,18,34]. Wu [5] defines LS as the capacity of a landscape to consistently provide long-term, landscape-specific ecosystem services essential for maintaining and improving human well-being. LS is a trans-disciplinary science where human–nature interactions are incorporated within a landscape-unit [5]. In any case, the interactions, affinities, and complementarity between LE and LS science are evident in literature and in practice, and both provide solid fundaments for the science behind ILAs.
Figure 1 outlines a theoretical framework for holistic sustainable landscapes. The framework, taken from the LS framework, represents a coherent rationale for ILAs. The strong sustainability principle understands that the economic system is part of the social domain and that the economy, as well as the society, is constrained by the environment [5]. Landscapes are understood as a heterogeneous system coupled with both people and the environment. People and the environment interact with each other and provide the composition and configuration of the landscape elements. The landscape elements ensure four key dynamic relationships between human well-being, economic structure, biodiversity and ecological processes, and governance and organization.

3.3. Definitions of the Integrated Landscape Approach

ILAs have been given different interpretations in literature; but a consensus definition has not been reached [21] and will likely remain lacking [35]. However, a 2017 study suggested that this lack of definition might exist because the ILAs still in a developmental stage [36]. Due to the under-theorized current state of ILAs [36], other essentially similar frameworks have to be considered as nested, complementary, and even as interchangeable concepts, such as (but not restricted to) Sustainable Landscapes and Seascapes, Biocultural Landscapes, Rural Sustainable Development, Multifunctional Landscapes and Seascapes, Development Landscape Ecology, Ecology Based Approach, Territorial Approach, Jurisdictional Approaches, and Integrated Water Resource and Basin Management, among others [1,5,9,28,36,37,38]. Conceptual links between different environmental approaches are inherent to ILAs.
Unfortunately, there is little consensus about terminology, conceptual categories, and classifications for most of these concepts, not only for the ILA [29]. This lack of consensus makes ILAs particularly complicated in deployment and implementation by policy-makers [11]. Additionally, these diverse terminologies with ‘same or akin’ goals have led to a fragmentation of knowledge, confusion, and, therefore, slow progress in implementation [1,28]. According to Reed et al. [1], a study by Ecoagriculture Partners identified over 80 terms, all referring to the same idea of integrated approaches to land management. For further argumentation, seven compatible and complementary definitions of the ILA are analyzed in Table 1.
In addition to the exceptional elements that each ILA definition provides in Table 1, there are additional aspects that the ILA concept involves. For example, ILAs are not restricted to the confines of rural land-use. As a theoretical concept, ILAs also provide a framework for urban planning of green infrastructure that considers the overall landscape interactions [43], including seascapes (or coastal landscapes where land–sea interactions occur) [44].
Additionally, ILAs are compatible with the five elements of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) provided by Nesshöver et al., 2017 [45], which are (1) dealing with uncertainty and complexity (e.g., the adaptive management approach); (2) ensuring the involvement of multiple stakeholders; (3) ensuring the sound use of multi- and transdisciplinary knowledge; (4) developing common understanding of multifunctional solutions and trade-offs of natural adaptation; and (5) evaluating and monitoring for mutual learning. Therefore, ILAs can be considered as an NBS at a landscape-scale. Moreover, ILAs through landscape planning and governance research could contribute to the identification, design, and implementation of NBS [46]. ILAs are evolving, and so the scope and connection with other concepts and elements will continue.
The landscape research and ILAs ideas rely on previous efforts to reconcile conservation with agriculture, forestry, and other land uses [47]. Some authors state that ILAs are derived from landscape-scale thinking in the context of biodiversity conservation [27]. ILAs are embraced as a socio-ecological system (socio-ecological systems are complex, integrated systems in which humans are part of nature [48]), operating mainly in rural and forested-oriented areas and surroundings, where integrated natural resource management and planning are needed to improve livelihoods and to mitigate and adapt to climate change [18]. ILAs’ associations with the socio-ecological system are a potential vehicle for sustainability and sustainable development [15,49]. The ILA is an approach for sustainably managing natural resources by looking at landscape multi-functions, stakeholders’ interests, law, and culture with a holistic and integrated view [11]. Furthermore, ILAs allow the spatial targeting of land-sharing and land-sparing [50]. The ILA follows a process approach rather than a sectoral approach [28,47]. Sectoral approaches for natural resources have long been regarded as short to medium term, linear in thinking, inadequate, ineffective, inefficient, and even an ‘old’ approach [1,11,18,47]. In the words of Sayer et al. [47] (p. 4), an ILA demands an ‘open-minded view of outcomes and acknowledgement of the trade-offs likely to be involved in any system change’. Additionally, the ILA has a sound disclosure on mitigation and adaptation to climate change [12]. The ILA has also been identified as a prominent tool to facilitate disaster risk reduction [51] and for pest control [52].

3.4. Principles and Criteria for Integrated Landscape Approaches

Some principles that underline the ILA have been defined, such as to ensure ‘benefits for the people’ [31], long-term action and large-scale approaches [53], and good multilevel governance, as a key to ILA effectiveness [36]. For Sayer et al. [39], it is fundamental to any ILA to make a comprehensive inventory of the landscape’s stakeholders and its physical, natural, and social assets. According to Båge et al. [11], the main principle when considering the establishment of an ILA is that it must be integrated with the overall planning and socio-economic development of the locality. Reed et al. [1] developed five critical aspects for an ILA, called the five “E’s”, that include (1) evaluating progress, (2) establishing good governance, (3) evolving from panacea solutions, (4) engaging multiple stakeholders, and (5) embracing dynamic processes. Important to note is a recent study by Reed et al. [54] that emphasizes the importance of not overlooking the ecological factors of ILAs, since ILA research advances have been highly focused on governance and social criteria, leaving behind ecological aspects.
After a study of seven landscapes worldwide, Sayer et al. [38] (p. 345) recorded several preconditions of success for ILA as ‘they [ILAs] have strong leadership, sustained long-term and facilitated processes, good governance, adequate budgets and adequate metrics for assessing progress’. The following ten principles developed by Sayer et al. [47] are a sound basis for the ideals of what the ILA concept consists of and aspires to within a decision-making process (see Table 2). These principles are by far the most frequently mentioned in the scientific literature. As Sayer et al. [38] also mentioned, this set of principles should be seen as a list to which practitioners must adapt to deal with local and case-specific conditions.

4. The International ‘Momentum’ of the Integrated Landscape Approach

Although it does not represent an entirely new framework, the ILA has been rather re-defined and has gained significant attention, especially for international green agendas and research [12,18,28].
Additionally, international efforts can enhance building capacities of the many stakeholders, create spaces for dialogue, and reach political agreements necessary for long-term landscape goals. Of course, this might include a collaborative commitment of international or donor institutions by also embracing long-term responsibilities and investments. ILAs, as a mainly international-promoted concept, require a flexible and adaptable terminology to each country and landscape. International efforts can lead the countries themselves to define the concept of ILA in relation to their subnational units (and their landscapes as well) and to adjust their implementation and monitoring systems and tools according to their local and national needs and goals. International community supporting the ILA could improve concurrent initiatives, as each country embraces and shares its own definition and ILA criteria, and in the very early stages, adopts it as a commitment for a long-term governance according to the national needs.
The international initiatives and researchers may support innovative efforts to explore the real economic costs and benefits of implementing an ILA ‘from zero’ [24]. Techniques to outweigh the transaction costs of the ILA also should be studied [11], as well as the potential ways for overcoming the initial investments for ILA initiatives in developing countries. Ultimately, this increasing international momentum of the ILA might come also with investments, and it may lighten the initial capital required for ILA implementation in rural landscapes [15]. Focusing on the economic process of ILA may also help the decision-making process, by identifying whether designing an ILA for a particular landscape is a viable alternative or not [1]. There is also international potential to incentivize the inclusion of Payments for Ecosystem Services for landscapes coming from ILA management [4,33]. Moreover, it is necessary to explore the potential of the ILA for landscape or geographical certification of products [24].
In Table 3, it is aimed to provide a summary on some examples of the international frameworks that support ILAs in their discursive lines. This is not an exhaustive review, but rather a compilation of the examples that the literature review revealed. It should be noted that there are many local and regional initiatives also promoting and supporting ILAs design, implementation, governance, and monitoring. Some examples, among many others, are the Lingkar Temu Kabupaten Lestari (LTKL) in Indonesia [55], the Produce Conserve and Include (PCI) in Mato Grosso Brazil [56], and the Intermunicipal boards for environment in Mexico [22,57]. Here, we are not suggesting that the bellow mentioned international frameworks are successful or even adequately integrating the characteristic elements and principles of ILAs. For that, a specific evaluation and assessment on these frameworks with respect to ILAs objectives needs to be carried out, which is outside of the scope of this study.
Additionally, international initiatives and studies have shown very little research regarding the connectivity of ILAs with markets (the private sector, industry, and business), a key role that can also be driven by international action and research. The engagement of the private sector with the sustainable landscape efforts has been frequently noted as missing, but as urgent and challenging at the same time [35,76]. The publication of the ILA operation of the Collaborating to Operationalize Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development, and Sustainability (COLANDS) initiative made by Reed et al. [59] (p. 207) states that ‘donor agencies continue to advise that sustainable development is reliant on successful engagement with the private sector, but what recourse is there if they [private sector] regard our initiatives as irrelevant (at best) or counter-productive to their own interests (at the very worst)?’, So far, the private sector’s motivation to engage on ILA initiatives can be summarized into the opportunity to [18,35,77] increase product quality, improve farming methods, innovate, prevent future failure on supply chain, reduce operational risk related to future resource scarcity, comply with recognized standards, reduce ecological impact in sourcing areas, seek out opportunities beyond the area of production, and increase client/consumer satisfaction. Some risks of the engagement of the private sector on ILAs include greenwashing, a narrow focus on commodity production, and outcompeting small producers [18,77]. As Reed et al., 2020 [35] mentions, it is hard to see the motivation behind the private sector’s engagement in ILAs and secure the ‘organization’s economic bottom line’. ILAs, therefore, should be considered as one of many potential solutions, not as the only solution for sustainable development [35]. Nevertheless, the potential long-term investment by the private sector can foster long-term landscape goals and outcomes.

5. Implementation and Sustainability of ILAs

There is scarce research documented of applied ILA examples around the world, compared to other resource management approaches [38]. Particularly in the tropics, there is uncertainty on how ILAs are pursued and the outcomes they can deliver [78]. Reed et al. [59] (p. 24) mentioned that ‘this [lack of evidence] does not necessarily indicate that the landscape approaches are not happening nor effective’. For example, a study in Mexico identified that, by the end of 2020, the country had at least 10 national policies and 15 landscape initiatives with evident consistency with the ILA principles and criteria [22]. Moreover, the initiative COLANDS operating in Indonesia, Zambia, and Ghana has shown scientific evidence of operationalized landscape approaches [59]. According to ‘Landscapes for People, Food and Nature’, there are 87 ILA initiatives in Africa [79] and 104 in Latin America and the Caribbean [80], and other researchers have confirmed 166 in South and Southeast Asia [81] and 71 in Europe [82].
It should be noted that there are many different concepts and terminologies referred to as ILAs; therefore, their implementation could also take form in many ways. The landscape-scale should be seen as a unit of management [76]. Integrated Landscape Initiatives are those projects, programs, platforms, initiatives, or set of activities for sustainable landscape management [78]. Jurisdictional approaches are a type of ILA [83,84] with a key characteristic element: ‘the landscape is defined by policy-relevant boundaries and the underlying strategy is designed to achieve a high level of governmental involvement’ [85] (p. 3).
Jurisdictional approaches, together with community-based management, independent regional community associations, biological corridors, forest/rural productive units at landscape level, jurisdictional REDD+, and integrated water resource management, are some of the most common management frameworks to implement ILAs [22,40,86]. There is clearly an urgent need to implement ILAs and use the multifaceted values of landscapes [50].
The interconnections between jurisdictional approaches and ILAs are very tight and are illustrated in Figure 2. Therefore, all individual landscapes are coordinated within the same jurisdiction, and landscapes as well as jurisdictional approaches are both implemented.
In order to fulfil the multiple objectives proposed by ILAs, an adequate mix of complementary policy instruments is needed [87]. Given the failure to harmonize policies affecting land use, the Latin American experience shows that REDD+ policies have embraced the effort to meet various landscape functions; however, this has been limited within the forest or environmental ministries implementing REDD+ [22,87].
Landscapes and seascapes can be considered a socio-ecological systems. In a socio-ecological system ‘the socio refers to the human dimension in its diverse facets, including the economic, political, technological, and cultural, and the ecological to the thin layer of planet Earth where there is life, the biosphere. The biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, humans and human actions included, as well as their dynamic interplay with the atmosphere, water cycle, biogeochemical cycles, and the dynamics of the Earth system as a whole’ [88]. Integrating governance and management in socio-ecological systems is consistent with ILAs and could therefore deliver sustainable development and sustainability outcomes at the landscape level (see Figure 3). The ILA implementation relies on landscape governance and a management plan crafted with consideration of the available natural resource-associated tools and methods for specific socio-economic needs and objectives in the landscape.
ILAs can be identified as part of the landscape concepts with the aim of sustainable development and sustainability [49,89]. In this sense, following Angelstam et al. [89], ILAs can be used as a tool to diagnose socio-ecological systems. In particular, some authors propose the use of a social–ecological network approach for developing a landscape governance framework [90]. However, good landscape governance alone cannot drive the desired landscape level outcomes; it must go hand-in-hand with the management and execution systems. The ILA implementation requires both a good and adaptive governance system in place and an adequate set of management methods and tools for the landscape context.
Landscape management is crucial to develop evidence-based governance responses that better suit to the landscape reality [54]. Landscape governance is a key element for ILA implementation, because it ‘deals with the interconnections between socially constructed spaces and the natural conditions of places’ [43] (p. 268). Findings confirm that weak landscape governance can lead to limited enforcement of the landscape management instruments. For example, this may include short-term planning and goals, corruption, unstructured collaboration, elite capture, diffuse mandates and responsibilities, sectoral and political rivalry, insufficient or inefficient stakeholder participation, high transaction cost, inadequate benefit sharing, gender asymmetries, or general policy failures regarding ecosystems and communities [2,11,18,35,37,38,91,92,93]. In order to address issues of common concern in the landscape, ILAs typically use multi-stakeholder platforms as the governance structure to set the common goals, outline a shared vision, and drive collective action [41,47]. The landscape governance’s improvement capacity will support the development of participatory theories of change that outline a shared vision and scenario building for the management plan [40]. A focus on the relationships between existing and upcoming policies is crucial to enhance good landscape governance [9].

Comprehensive Landscape Planning, Monitoring, and Reporting

A flexible and user-friendly design and planning tool (of inputs and outputs) for the landscape system is still needed to support ILA management and implementation [8]. ‘Indeed, developing multi-dimensional indicators that are locally salient but internationally relevant remains a contemporary research frontier’ [37] (p. 184). A proper evaluation of the sustainable development and sustainability of ILA implementation also requires ‘dialogue with everyday practices in civil, private and public sectors, and a transdisciplinary research’ [44] (p. 123).
Sustainable and participatory ILA planning and monitoring is often included as a key principle for an adequate ILA implementation. Studies in Sweden highlight that there is limited land for single-use systems, and landscape planning is needed with an integrative approach of multiple-use systems that can coexist spatially [50]. Studies recommend 3-D visualization for the participatory landscape planning process due to its high potential for greater understanding and for communicating landscape conditions to participants [94]. ILAs, as well as landscapes, could be applied to a nonlinear system (socio-ecological system) because each landscape is case-specific; therefore, multiple solutions with similar effects in terms of landscape functionality and meeting human demands should be considered during the planning phases [4].
Building a process for monitoring and evaluating the ILA is of high relevance to generate knowledge, allocating resources, revising interventions, and adapting as new information is obtained. One useful framework is the ‘theory of change’ where the goals, outputs, outcomes, and the framework itself are subject to assessment to foresee management scenarios in an iterative process [39]. Lessons learned from Ghana and Zambia on ILAs highlight the importance of the usage of participatory theories of change to frame the common vision, shared goals, and management plan(s) through historical trend analyses and scenario building for the future of the specific landscape [40].
Information obtained from monitoring and evaluation is crucial and can provide evidence for the planning and decision-making processes, meeting the needs of information for adaptive management. Information from monitoring and evaluation may also support assessment of ILA performance in achieving sustainable development objectives [39,59]. A re-emphasis of the importance of monitoring and evaluating biodiversity for ILA operationalization resulted from a study in 2020 [59]. This study also highlights the use of process analysis and impact evaluation methods to investigate the pathways of ILA implementation in different contexts [59]. In addition, the economic costs and benefits, including those that are non-monetary, can be challenging to measure, but it is necessary in order to compare the ILA with other natural resources management schemes [37]. ILA initiatives can consider an innovative methodology developed by Assumma et al. [95] for an integrated evaluation of the landscape economic attractiveness (LEA) index; this could serve decision makers in the definition of mitigation and compensation measures, thus increasing the economic attractiveness of designated landscapes. An analysis made in 2017 by Reed et al. [36] states that, so far, not a single study has been identified where an ILA had failed in its objectives. The authors also recognized that a lack of documented unsuccessful examples does not necessarily mean that ILAs are always successful, but rather that there is a lack of incentives to publish failures [36]. Sayer et al. [39] proposed the following four dimensions for monitoring management and outcomes of ILA: (1) conservation, (2) production, (3) livelihoods, and (4) institutions.

6. Perspectives of the Integrated Landscape Approach and Sustainability

6.1. The Integrated Landscape Approach in a Challenging and Evolving World

The current times, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic, can be recognized as a unique opportunity for humanity to innovate and transform toward a sustainable, inclusive, and climate-resilient world.
In this sense, the capacity for adaptability and comprehensiveness proposed by the ILA makes it a relevant alternative to consider during these challenging times. This is due to the multipurpose benefits it can potentially achieve. The ILA shows potential to combine not only biodiversity conservation and development goals [21,47] as studies have shown, but also climate change and human well-being goals [13]. The contribution toward mitigation and adaptation goals by the ILA is not only accepted in literature [58] but is also reinforced by climate change mechanisms such as REDD+ [87], Nature-Based Solutions, and ecosystem-based adaptation [45]. Regarding the human well-being aspect, as previously discussed, this is a key element of the Landscape Sustainability theoretical framework (see Figure 1), which is also a coherent scientific framework articulated in the ILA. The human well-being is also an undeniably consistent element of the ILA theoretical framework. Human well-being dimensions can be complex and broad in scope; however, key socio-economic and cultural aspects can be determined as relevant for the ILA, such as health, education, food security, and livelihoods [13]. Human well-being and environmental functioning are interdependent [96].
Moreover, the ILA seeks to link local needs, aspirations, and objectives with the national commitments within the specific characteristics of each landscape [21,36,39]. Nested adaptive cycles occur at specific ranges of spatiotemporal scales, and the relevance of work at a landscape-scale is rooted on the Panarchy theory, which provides the resilience (resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks [97]) component of Figure 4 [5]. In the Panarchy theory, resilience is a primary variable that controls the adaptive cycling of nested systems, where resilience is measured by the magnitude of disturbance that can be absorbed before the system changes its structure, functions, and feedbacks [98]. ILA interventions should aim to moderate adverse livelihood impacts due to climate change and aim to build the socio-ecological resilience (as stated by Folke et al., the social–ecological resilience is an approach whereby humans and nature are studied as an integrated whole, and it emphasizes that humans and well-being fundamentally rest on the capacity of the biosphere to sustain us, irrespective of whether or not people recognize this dependence [88]) capacity of the landscape inhabitants and ecosystems [86,94]. In short, the ILA is an alternative that responds to the global need for more integrative management approaches where biodiversity conservation, development, climate change, and human well-being goals can potentially be achieved at a landscape-scale in order to build resilient societies and ecosystems in the short, medium, and long term.

6.2. Integrated Landscape Approaches’ Relevance for the Forest Sector

Forests are an important element of landscapes. While in some countries they cover more than two third of the land area, in others with a low forest cover, their protection and sustainable use might be even more important. The ILA aims for holistic management, focusing not only on forests but also on other land uses through a single management system to achieve sustainable and better livelihood outcomes [12,99]. Especially in areas where forest conversion and forest degradation are underway, the ILA provides a framework to align competing land-use objectives in the territory [39]. As identified by previous studies, the ILA is remarkable in its capacity to fulfil ecological and productive goals in the forest sector [99,100], particularly in the tropics [6]. Plus, ILAs may serve as a basis for sustainable forest management schemes [100]. Forests are not a closed system; they are part of a broader landscape. They interact within their transition zones, neighbouring ecosystems, and other land uses such as agriculture, urban areas, or between managed forests and protected areas [29].
One of the most significant improvements that forest management can contribute to sustainable development is the ability to evaluate the quality of the surrounding landscape and to meet multiple management objectives [29]. ‘The landscape level becomes a useful scale from which to analyze the reactions of the forest as a whole’ [101] (p. 6). For example, forest landscape restoration studies have used several principles and general goals of the ILA to develop and improve their management actions [102]. Agroforestry, for its part, can also benefit from ILAs, since it can play a significant role in scaling up agroforestry systems through multi-stakeholder sustainable landscape strategies [103].
The ILA calls for interdisciplinary work beyond the confines of forestry science and for transformation of both forestry and foresters [24]. The ILA represents a particular challenge for transformation of forest managers and researchers; this is also confirmed by previous studies [29,104]. R. Schlaepfer and C. Elliott emphasize that forest managers need to adjust their horizons and adapt to the increasing importance of overall landscape considerations, and if they cannot, ‘they [forest managers] will continue to find their role, even with forest, being dramatically reduced’ [29] (p. 1). However, it should not be forgotten that the large number of private forest owners are also belonging to the groups affected by ILAs whose property rights have to be respected [105].
One of the most significant drivers of deforestation and rural landscape change is the extension of agricultural areas [47]. However, the United Nations estimates that, by 2050, global food production must increase by 60% to meet the needs of the growing human population [67]. Therefore, it is vital to note that the global demand for food combined with “business as usual” agricultural production represents one of the biggest challenges for forestry and conservation goals [47,91]. A study on the Agrarian Change Project found that forest fragmentation, habitat, and biodiversity loss due to agricultural expansion do not necessarily result in better livelihood outcomes; in fact, there are losses in dietary diversification, nutrition, access to grazing land, ecosystem services, and in forest products [2]. The landscape approach takes into consideration the specific elements of landscapes (forest areas, agricultural production areas, etc.), as well as the whole scenario within the respective landscape. Most of the drivers of deforestation are situated outside of a forest area; that is why combating deforestation needs an integrated view [6,10,106,107].
Managing and negotiating trade-offs and socio-economic outcomes between agriculture, biodiversity, and forestry requires an integral and broad assessment to better appraise potential synergies [2]. As Schaepfer and Elliott postulated over 20 years ago, an integrated and ecosystem-based management might be the future of forestry [29]. Furthermore, working at a landscape-scale has also been identified as beneficial for other frameworks gaining visibility for forest and climate change planning, such as ecosystem-based adaptation and jurisdictional approaches [37,108].
The ILA can be considered a paradigm shift, particularly (but not solely) for forestry, conservation, rural development, and agriculture [1,21,29,36,39,109]. As is the case with every paradigm change, the ILA has its own cost, contradictions, and controversies [29,47]. However, the perception of key informants from a Mexican study [22] revealed that ILAs are perceived as more of a revival or recognition of the traditional or ancestral practices for holistic natural resources management within a contemporary setting, rather than a paradigm shift. It also showed that it is still necessary to transform the current development model into a sustainable one as this is the main principle for ILAs [22]. Therefore, for forestry, the ILA paradigm shift is to work beyond stand level to a landscape level, and to acknowledge the traditional and science-based practices for sustainable management as tools not only to achieve for forest related objectives, but to achieve sustainable landscape objectives overall.

6.3. Key Barriers to Overcome

Despite the potential benefits of implementing an ILA, some barriers have been identified by Reed et al. [39], such as time lags, terminology confusion, operating silos, lacking internal/external engagement, and ineffective monitoring. Notwithstanding the international momentum of the ILA, its implementation is still perceived as risky and complex due to its abstract discourse. Nonetheless, until the ILA takes a clear shape, it will not be possible to see the underlying conflicts of interest and values around it [12]. Additionally, the ILA has been driven more by conservation and climate change goals than by development and human well-being interests [11]. This may be because most ILA scientific and international efforts are motivated by environmental goal-driven organizations. Likewise, it could be because the effectiveness of ecosystem services can be improved by ILAs [32], but it is not clear how much the ILA enhances the effectiveness of “development or production” strategies and frameworks. Indeed, when the landscape is managed, focusing on isolated efforts, these trade-offs can result in negative socio-economic and environmental outcomes [1]. However, on a landscape management or a landscape policy intervention, there will be both winners and losers [1]. Unfortunately, negotiated plans of agreed outcomes with ILAs do not necessarily avoid conflict; consequently, plans need to be adapted [38]. The question of who gains and who loses with the ILA is a central issue for sustainable development planning and design of landscapes [5,29]. Wu [5] explains that the ‘sustainability’ concept itself is more of a journey than a destination. The ILA naturally has a social and idealistic construction behind it, which might be just as significant as the journey toward sustainability itself.

6.3.1. Multi- and Transdisciplinary Academia Is as Relevant as a Cross-Sectoral Government

A truly great challenge is the coordination of the different local, subnational, national, and international initiatives happening at the same time within a particular geographical area or landscape, including those initiatives with similar development goals. However, during implementation, there may be disorder on the ground, which results in uncoordinated projects and sectoral policy implementation. This sectorization of the government coincides with sectorization in academia. Even at a global level, the sectorization of UN agencies is evident and coordination between research efforts for climate change, biodiversity, food, forestry, and water, among others, is often lacking. Fields of research still deeply separated [29,89], so integral and holistic approaches are not only a governmental job but are also a responsibility for academia. At the landscape level, the Landscape Sustainability and Landscape Ecology sciences are trying to accomplish this. However, the necessity for multi- and transdisciplinary work is also emphasized by scholars of forestry, biodiversity, agriculture, sociology, anthropology, economy, and many other natural resources, engineering, and human and social sciences [1,5,18,29].
Since sustainable development [110] and climate change are some of the biggest challenges of the current age, governmental as well as non-governmental actors must be involved. Multi- and transdisciplinary work by academia can provide knowledge for governments, private enterprises, UN agencies, and donors. Moreover, it is important to acknowledge the multiple sources of knowledge needed for driving successful ILA implementation, including the integration of Western science with indigenous, traditional, and local knowledge systems [58] and the knowledge that different stakeholders provide to researchers and science [45,54]. According to Angelstam et al., 2013 [72] (p. 117), not only do the ‘borders of academic disciplines need to become more porous’ but also ‘academic and non-academic actors need to collaborate using both quantitative and qualitative methods’. The applications of tools for scenario building and theory of change, as well as mixed-methods for socio-environmental analyses, are fundamental for transdisciplinary research advancement of ILAs [35].
Studies reveal the importance of recognizing the value of ‘design-in-science’ or ‘research for/on/through design’ paradigms in order to ultimately transfer and apply knowledge to society [5,111,112]. Regarding the ILA, the linkage between science and practice (or landscape change) is ‘landscape design’, and the ‘design’ aspect for ILA has been poorly developed in today’s scientific research [111,112]. Additionally, Cumming et al. [3] explain the interactions between theory, models, and empirical data, where models act as a mediator between empirical data and the development of theory (as well as concepts). ILA simulation models, as well as agent-based models, can provide key information to further inform the theory and provide insights of the trade-offs in the landscape system [54].
In a similar way, recent developments in participatory scenario planning and systematic conservation planning methodologies may support research and assessment of ILA initiatives [113,114,115]. Such exercises explicitly acknowledge the interactions of several stakeholders, contesting values, and human activities that can be appraised, analysed, and negotiated in participatory landscape scenarios [116]. Within these methodologies, the values and voices of all stakeholders can be considered in the planning and design of sustainable landscapes, thus improving the legitimacy of policies and strengthening landscape governance [77]. A multi- and transdisciplinary approach that engages multiple stakeholders and sectors can directly contribute to the management and action plans of the landscape and the subsequent long-term monitoring studies [54].

6.3.2. Exercising Long-Term Thinking for Sustainability

For sustainability implementation, and for the ILA, short-term initiatives have proven to have a shallow impact; a long-term commitment is required to achieve results at scale [38,89]. Studies recommend the assurance of at least ten years of investment in order to properly establish a landscape approach [11]. However, how long is long-term for sustainability? Wu [5] (p. 1014) helps answer this question and specifies that ‘‘long-term encapsulates a timeframe of a few to several generations (decades to a century), in general”. Therefore, long-term for sustainability and for sustainable development may mean considering up to 100 years. In practice, long-term planning may mean inter-generational thinking, which is not an easy task, especially for politicians. To consider a 100-year period would mean societies from 1921 would have needed to consider today’s current needs and should have guaranteed that these needs could be satisfied. Similarly, what will human societies need in 2121, so that it can be guaranteed that those needs can be met? It is impossible to accurately predict what human life will be like in 2121, but it is likely that the humans of 2121 will still need natural resources to produce products and satisfy their needs. Thus, it is still relevant to invest in sustainable strategies and initiatives with short, medium, and long-term planning. A very well-illustrated case of this type of planning is the city of North Vancouver in Canada. In 2009, the city published their “100 years sustainability vision” [117], an innovative plan that is worthy of further attention from governments, stakeholders, and researchers.
A helpful tool for long-term planning is the incorporation of a systematic adaptive management approach or adaptive collaborative management to assure an iterative and flexible process [1,29,38,47]. Paradoxically, the adaptive management approach was the worst-performing criterion in all the ILA initiatives analyzed in a study in Mexico [22]. This may be because most of the ILA initiatives contemplate a short–medium term planning framework that often lacks capacity for addressing long-term objectives.
Ultimately, local landscape stakeholders are the key to supporting long-term landscape thinking. Stakeholders who are directly concerned with and impacted by the landscape need to be able to take ownership and commitment to implement and assess the progress of the short–medium and long-term goals of the ILA that they themselves helped to establish [54]. Landscape change is related to people’s expectations, preferences, and general relationship with the landscape [118]. The results of a 20-year study made by Palang et al. [118] in Estonia conclude that the stronger people’s identity and connection with the landscape, the more people care for and provide stewardship to that landscape, and that the best ecologically preserved landscapes are usually the ones that people care about the most.
Another useful tool that may support the ILA to incorporate long-term scales in planning and design is the modeling of scenarios. Several methodologies and software now exist that are designed to build landscape scenarios; with participation of relevant stakeholders, these can help to anticipate trends and future trajectories in the dynamics of ecological and human processes [115,119,120]. For example, different management decisions and interventions can be assessed in order to compare system behavior and identify the best outcomes in the long term [114,121]. These modeling exercises may take into consideration not only the environmental variables, but also the social, political, and economic variables. Such exercises can be applied to spatial and temporal scales to learn from modeling the dynamics of ILAs in different contexts and scenarios, such as global change. Scientists also recommend the platform Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) to generate and share knowledge on long-term and place-based (including landscape) sustainability [122].
Long-term thinking at the landscape level requires envisioning the future of the landscape, and envisioning the future of a landscape requires an open-minded view, as well as the analysis of past and present events and experiences. Failure to consider historically legitimate interest by stakeholders results in the inability to manage the present-day landscape and the current distribution of ecosystem services [123]. Additionally, present and future ecological research will benefit from robust data on historical climate, forest cover, biodiversity, or fire prevalence in the landscape [54]. In order to study the management of historical cultural landscapes, researchers suggest using approaches of path dependency theory, cultural sustainability, and cultural ecosystem services [118].
The foundation of sustainability requires that present needs be met without compromising the needs of future generations. Hence, to achieve overall sustainability in landscape interventions, it is key to embrace the complexity and benefits of long-term planning and long-term thinking. The temporal scale is also part of the spatial transformations in societies and ecosystems, such as explained in the Panarchy theory of adaptive cycle and foundation theory on landscape sustainability science [5,98].

7. Conclusions

ILAs can be defined as a sustainable development approach that considers landscape scale interactions, functions, and processes. Specifically, ILAs can be recognized as socio-ecological management strategies at a landscape-level to reconcile conservation, development, climate change, and human well-being goals. Therefore, the ILA is composed of three major fundamental concepts: ‘sustainability’, ‘development’, and ‘landscapes’. The sustainability concept could be included as part of the groups of terms that are of great importance for humankind, but are also dialectically vague, such as freedom and justice [5]. However, as it currently functions, the development model has failed to achieve sustainability and other human needs, by basing its success on measurements of financial indicators and on poorly defined societal well-being values and preferences [5,109]. An upgraded idea of development can be pictured, envisioned, and therefore created [110], and landscapes are a key scale to connect local efforts with national and global commitments [11].
In summary, the ILA is an invitation to operationalize sustainable development through landscape-scale, multi-transdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, long-term, and cross-sectoral thinking. The ILA can be used to envision sustainable strategies that are adequate for a specific landscape-condition. All methods (traditional, existing, and future) and tools for good governance and sustainable management should be implemented in a coordinated way around the specific landscape goals determined according to each context. Each landscape context includes not only socio-economic, political, cultural, and environmental dimensions but also very practical linguistic and dialectic characteristics. Therefore, landscapes and ILAs come in different physical and social shapes and sizes.
The fact that at the international level there is no universal definition of the ILA [1] and little consensus about categories and classifications for implementation [29] it has led to some confusion, disapproval, and mistrust among several stakeholders [1,28]. Therefore, some interest groups are skeptical of the ILA; arguing that the ILA is a re-branding of old concepts with a very broad conceptualization, making it idealistic and inoperable. Figure 5 presents a summary of the ILA by answering the Six W’s of the ILA.
For the forest sector, the ILA has been identified as particularly beneficial. Ithas been strongly highlighted by scientific and gray literature and is supported by an infrastructure of nature-related organizations that promotes it. The potential benefits from the ILA are very encouraging, particularly for the forest sector. ILAs are gaining international momentum. In countries with traditionally strong sectoral policies and clearly visible borders of land use in the landscape, e.g., in Central Europe, the landscape approach is receiving less attention than in other regions. But even there, ILAs are being implemented increasingly in different categories of protected areas, sustainable management strategies, and rural development programs [124]. R. Schlaepfer and C. Elliott [29] stated that ‘any new idea is first ignored, then questioned and passionately discussed, and finally, when scientifically sound, implemented or, when without scientific support, forgotten’. Nevertheless, some principles and criteria for the ILA have been developed with scientific support [1,8].
Sustainability science, landscape sustainability science, and landscape ecology science represent an appropriate, but not restricted, scientific umbrella for further ILA research and implementation. The study of the ILA requires collective work from many disciplines and stakeholders to maximize the multiple benefits that can potentially be derived by ILA efforts. More multi- and trans-disciplinary research of inclusive comprehensive sustainable development at landscape scales should be encouraged, especially on the ILAs design and the financial and economic components of ILA associated management; it has to be ensured that the cost of the ILA must not outweigh the benefits. The long-term thinking in ILAs (i.e., envisioning the future of a landscape) is fundamental for sustainability and requires an open-minded view and the permanent analysis of past and present landscape developments and experiences when setting/adjusting the landscape goals.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, N.M.P.-A., N.W. and A.O.-A.; investigation, N.M.P.-A.; writing—original draft preparation, N.M.P.-A.; writing—review and editing, N.W. and A.O.-A.; supervision, N.W. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This project has received funding from the Circular Bio-Based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 745874. The publication reflects only the authors’ views and CBE JU is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

In this section, please provide details regarding where data supporting reported results can be found, including links to publicly archived datasets analyzed or generated during the study. Please refer to suggested Data Availability Statements in section “MDPI Research Data Policies” at (accessed on 1 May 2021) You might choose to exclude this statement if the study did not report any data.


The authors would like to sincerely thank Diego Novoa Vazquez for the technical support and useful discussions, Christy Bennett for proofreading the manuscript, and the anonymous reviewers who were helpful in improving the manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Theoretical framework for holistic sustainable landscapes (Modified from Wu, 2013:1013).
Figure 1. Theoretical framework for holistic sustainable landscapes (Modified from Wu, 2013:1013).
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Figure 2. Interconnections between jurisdictional and landscape approaches (Source: own elaboration by authors). (a) The landscape itself is delimited within the political boundaries of the jurisdiction. The complete jurisdiction is the landscape where the landscape/jurisdictional approach is implemented. This situation is uncommon. (b) Inside the jurisdictional boundaries is one landscape where the resources to implement the approach are focused. (c) Inside the jurisdictional boundaries are two or more landscapes where the resources to implement the approach are focused. (d) The landscape touches more than one jurisdictional boundary. Therefore, the landscape approach includes a multi-jurisdictional approach for its implementation; this can be an association of multiple neighboring municipalities, states, or even countries. (bd) and are the most common cases of landscape/jurisdictional approach implementation. (e) The complete jurisdiction is organized through a jurisdictional approach with nested landscapes or jurisdictional compacts at smaller scales, it’s a type of nested jurisdictional approach.
Figure 2. Interconnections between jurisdictional and landscape approaches (Source: own elaboration by authors). (a) The landscape itself is delimited within the political boundaries of the jurisdiction. The complete jurisdiction is the landscape where the landscape/jurisdictional approach is implemented. This situation is uncommon. (b) Inside the jurisdictional boundaries is one landscape where the resources to implement the approach are focused. (c) Inside the jurisdictional boundaries are two or more landscapes where the resources to implement the approach are focused. (d) The landscape touches more than one jurisdictional boundary. Therefore, the landscape approach includes a multi-jurisdictional approach for its implementation; this can be an association of multiple neighboring municipalities, states, or even countries. (bd) and are the most common cases of landscape/jurisdictional approach implementation. (e) The complete jurisdiction is organized through a jurisdictional approach with nested landscapes or jurisdictional compacts at smaller scales, it’s a type of nested jurisdictional approach.
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Figure 3. Integration of governance and management for ILA implementation within a socio-ecological system (Source: own elaboration by authors).
Figure 3. Integration of governance and management for ILA implementation within a socio-ecological system (Source: own elaboration by authors).
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Figure 4. The objectives of Integrated Landscape Approaches (Source: Modified from Pfund 2010:122).
Figure 4. The objectives of Integrated Landscape Approaches (Source: Modified from Pfund 2010:122).
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Figure 5. The Six W’s of the ILA (Source: own elaboration by authors).
Figure 5. The Six W’s of the ILA (Source: own elaboration by authors).
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Table 1. Comparison of some definitions of Integrated Landscape Approaches.
Table 1. Comparison of some definitions of Integrated Landscape Approaches.
DefinitionsWhat Is It?Common ElementsExceptional Elements
‘a long-term collaborative process bringing together diverse stakeholders aiming to achieve a balance between multiple and sometimes conflicting objectives in a landscape or seascape’ [39] (p. 466).Long-term collaborative processDiverse stakeholders.
Balance between multiple and sometimes conflicting objectives.
Landscape or seascape.
‘Integrated landscape approaches are governance strategies that attempt to reconcile multiple and conflicting land-use claims to harmonize the needs of people and the environment and establish more sustainable and equitable multi-functional landscapes’ [35] (p. 1).Governance strategiesReconcile multiple and conflicting land-use claims.
Equitable multi-functional landscapes.
Harmonize the needs of people and the environment.
‘A landscape approach is broadly defined as a framework to integrate policy and practice for multiple land uses, within a given area, to ensure equitable and sustainable use of land while strengthening measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It also aims to balance competing demands on land through the implementation of adaptive and integrated management systems’ [28] (p. 1–2).A frameworkMultiple land-uses.
Balance competing demands on land.
Adaptive and integrated management systems.
Mitigate and adapt to climate change.
‘Landscape approaches are broadly defined as a strategy to integrate research, policy and practice for multiple land uses within a given area to enhance equitability and sustainability’ [28,40] (p. 3).A strategyIntegrate research, policy, and practice.
Multiple land-uses.
Enhance equitability.
‘A landscape approach can be defined as a framework to integrate policy and practice for multiple competing land uses through the implementation of adaptive and integrated management systems’ [1,28,36] (p. 482).A frameworkIntegrate policy and practice.
Multiple land-uses.
Adaptive and integrated management systems.
‘a way of achieving a balance between competing resource uses, employing multi-stakeholder interdisciplinary working modes, to sustainably meet economic, nutritional and environmental needs as well as the aspirations of people within a landscape and of those linked to it though value chains and ecosystem services’ [11] (p. 2).A wayBalance between competing resource uses.
Meet nutritional needs.
Within a landscape and those linked to it.
Value chains and ecosystem services.
‘A conceptual framework whereby stakeholders in a landscape aim to reconcile competing social, economic, and environmental objectives. It provides 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’ [41] (p. 3).Conceptual frameworkStakeholders in a landscape.
Reconcile competing social, economic and environmental objectives.
Tools and concepts for managing lands.
Areas where mining, and other compete with biodiversity goals.
Landscape approaches involve collaboration of stakeholders in a landscape to reconcile and optimize multiple social, economic, and environmental objectives across multiple economic sectors and land uses. Landscape approaches are implemented through processes of integrated landscape management that convene diverse stakeholders to develop and implement land-use plans, policies, projects, investments, and other interventions to advance landscape sustainability goals [42] (p. 8).n.d.Collaboration of stakeholders.
Reconcile and optimize multiple social, economic, and environmental objectives
Implemented through integrated landscape management.
Plans, policies, projects, and investments
Landscape sustainability goals.
Table 2. Ten principles of the Integrated Landscape Approach.
Table 2. Ten principles of the Integrated Landscape Approach.
10 Principles of the Landscape Approach
1. Continual learning and adaptive management
2. Common concern entry point
3. Multiple scales
4. Multifunctionality
5. Multiple stakeholders
6. Negotiated and transparent change logic
7. Clarification of rights and responsibilities
8. Participatory and user-friendly monitoring
9. Resilience
10. Strengthened stakeholder capacity
Source: Sayer et al., 2013: 8350–8353.
Table 3. Examples of international frameworks that promote Integrated Landscape Approaches.
Table 3. Examples of international frameworks that promote Integrated Landscape Approaches.
International FrameworkSpecificationsType
UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and Aichi targets [1,35,39,47]The conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems is a primary goal of ILAs.International Agreement
UN Framework of Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Green Climate Fund (GCF) [12,35,50,58,59]ILAs are acknowledged as a strategy for implementing mitigation and adaptation measures particularly, but not restricted, for the LULUCF sector. Additionally, some ILA elements are included in the contribution of integrated land use plannning and integrated landscape management to implementing land degradation neutrality.International Agreement
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs)
Overlapping intentions of ILAs with the SDGs, therefore ILAs provide a framework to achieve many SDGs (11–15 SDGs with potential direct and indirect linkages).International Agreement
Agenda 21 [60]Section II, Chapter 10 of the integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources relates to ILA principles.Global partnership
The New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) [35,61]Pledges by governments and multinational companies to manage natural resources more holistically. International Agreement
The Bonn Challenge
Pledges by countries, companies, and institutions to restore millions of hectares of degraded lands using a multifunctional landscape approach. International initiative
World Bank—[21,61]
Global Environmental Facility [62]
Forest Carbon Partnership Facility [63]
BioCarbon Fund—Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes [64]
Promoting ILA mostly on forest and land use sectors within specific programs towards sustainable landscapes and jurisdictional REDD+. International financial institutions
Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations [65]
UN-REDD Programme [66]
Developing programs and platforms that promote a landscape approach and jurisdictional REDD+.UN specialized agencies
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) [47].
Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) [67].
Including the landscape concept on their principles and exploring ILA into certification schemes.Forest certification schemes
Forest Positive Coalition [68]
GCF-Task Force [69]
Companies and sub-national governments groups with common objectives in the transition to holistic and sustainable landscapes/jurisdictions.Groups and coalitions
Global Landscapes Forum [70]
Jurisdictional Action Network—JA Resource Hub [71]
International platform to share knowledge and incentivize networks on sustainable landscapes.Network platform
Center for International Forestry Research/World Agroforestry (CIFOR) [72]Launching and supporting specific ILA research and implementation projects.Research
LandScale [73]
CDP [74]
IDH Source up [75]
Developing standards and frameworks to measure and report on landscape approaches.Measuring and reporting frameworks
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