Special Issue "The Transformative Potential of Transdisciplinary Research in Land Systems Science"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X). This special issue belongs to the section "Socio-Economic and Political Aspects of Contemporary and Historical Land Issues".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 September 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Narcisa G. Pricope
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 S College Rd., Wilmington, NC 28403, USA
Interests: land systems science; human–environment interactions; remote sensing and UAS applications; land degradation
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Isabelle Providoli
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
Interests: natural resource management and governance; transdisciplinary co-production of knowledge; science–policy interface; knowledge co-production
Dr. Albrecht Ehrensperger
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
Interests: sustainable land management; biomass energy; land system science; co-benefits and trade-offs between multiple claims on land
Dr. Jean-Christophe Castella
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Research for Development (IRD), 34000 Montpellier, France
Interests: transdisciplinary approaches; land use change; agroecological transition; community-based natural resource management; climate change mitigation and adaptation; Southeast Asia
Prof. Dr. Flurina Schneider
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
ISOE & Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Faculty Biological Sciences, Goethe University of Frankfurt, Hamburger Allee 45, 60486 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Interests: research for sustainable and just development; governance and use of natural resources such as water and soils; stakeholder perceptions; norms and values; sustainability transformations; social learning processes; transdisciplinary co-production of knowledge

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Land is a critical nexus for advancing the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, as its management is affecting the delivery of most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is because land lies at the intersection of diverse and potentially conflicting claims concerning societies’ sustainable development needs (Ehrensperger et al., 2019). These claims might be bound to a specific context, but in today’s interconnected world, they are increasingly linked to complex multi-scale, cross-scale, and tele-coupled processes that exacerbate the risk of inequality and marginalisation (Pricope et al., 2020).

Owing to this complexity, navigating competing claims on land in an equitable way necessitates approaches that help address multi-faceted real-world problems. Transdisciplinary (TD) approaches go beyond interdisciplinarity by transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries and co-producing knowledge with multiple stakeholders. They have been proposed as a mechanism to understand sustainability challenges, to define common sustainable development targets, and to identify the most promising pathways towards these targets (Paul and Hirsch Hadorn, 2007; Schneider et al., 2019).

Land system science (LSS) has a rich tradition of knowledge co-production between scientists and land managers (de Bremond et al., 2019) and has been put forth as normative science through its systemic focus on synergies and tradeoffs (Nielsen et al., 2019). Thus far, the literature on the strengths and limitations of these approaches has grown exponentially (Zschleischler et al., 2018; Zaehringer et al., 2019; Schneider et al., 2020), but a comprehensive reflection is lacking on their ability to tackle multiple claims on land by multiple stakeholders in a multi-scale, cross-scale, or tele-coupled context.

Against this backdrop, this Special Issue probes the ability of TD research in LSS to achieve equitable problem solving in complex multi-stakeholder, multi- and cross-scale, as well as tele-coupled contexts. It focuses on the potentials and limitations of innovative TD concepts and methods to negotiate trade-offs and to foster synergies between multiple sustainability claims on land by (a) availing useful knowledge on sustainability challenges, (b) enabling consensus building on common development targets, and (c) identifying promising transformation pathways.

We welcome practice-based or case study papers, as well as conceptual or review articles that contribute directly to the above-stated objectives. Within this scope, we will give priority to submissions that explicitly relate the competing claims and co-benefits under consideration of interactions between land-relevant SDGs and their targets.

Specifically, central to the objectives of this Special Issue are questions such as:

  • What is the role of co-production in land-relevant SDG research in LSS and how do we anticipate the landscape of TD approaches to change as we develop better approaches, tools, and methods of linking stakeholders, scales, and contexts?
  • What actors and stakeholders should co-produce and what groups and entities would be better served not engaging in TD and co-produced research? What may be the criteria to decide?
  • What are the critical competing claims on land that you have encountered and how did TD approaches help in identifying them and in supporting negotiation and decision-support processes to address them?
  • How can TD approaches help foster synergies among various development priorities targeting the same region or landscape?
  • When should TD give way to non-participatory, top-down approaches towards pacifying conflicting claims on land?
  • What can make TD processes backfire and how can this be avoided?

Finally, we welcome contributions that highlight how the coronavirus pandemic and the decarbonisation of research activities has affected and may continue to affect our knowledge co-production practices.

Special Note: The members of Global Land Programme (GLP) receive 10% discount on the article processing charge.

Dr. Narcisa Pricope
Dr. Isabelle Providoli
Dr. Albrecht Ehrensperger
Dr. Jean-Christophe Castella
Prof. Dr. Flurina Schneider
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • transdisciplinary research
  • research co-production
  • land system science
  • sustainable development

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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