Concerns about ecological degradation and social inequalities have prompted increasing calls for stewardship in the social–ecological systems and sustainability science literature. However, how can the ideals of stewardship be realised in practice? The links between the theory and practice of stewardship are under-developed, and research to support place-based stewardship practice is limited. We therefore bring together complementary perspectives to guide research on place-based stewardship practice in the context of multifunctional landscapes. We unpack and synthesise literature on stewardship, landscapes, and collaboration for natural resource management, and highlight the ways in which the pathways approach can deepen research on collaboration and stewardship practice. We propose landscapes as a suitable level of analysis and action for stewardship. Since all landscapes are multifunctional, we argue that collaboration among multiple stakeholders is a necessary focus of such research. Our analysis reveals that existing theory on collaboration could be deepened by further research into the agency of individual human actors, the complex social–relational dynamics among actors, and the situatedness of actors within the social–ecological context. These factors mediate collaborative processes, and a better understanding of them is needed to support place-based stewardship practice. To this end, the pathways approach offers a waymark to advance research on collaboration, particularly in the complex, contested social–ecological systems that tend to characterize multifunctional landscapes.
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