Cultural Landscapes Blog

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Cultural Landscapes BlogA blog on cultural landscapes

A blog on cultural landscapes

7 April 2014/by Tobias Plieninger/Tags: EU project, landscape, heritage

We appreciate cultural landscapes – those landscapes of distinct human shape that surround us – for many different motivations, whether as cultural heritage, arena for recreation, or for their environmental virtues. Many cultural landscapes are undergoing major changes, with agriculture and urbanization being the most important drivers of change in Europe. There is widespread concern that increasing standardisation puts the social and ecological values of cultural landscapes at risk. At the same time, integrated approaches to cultural landscapes – combining safeguarding of biodiversity and ecosystem services, agricultural commodity production, rural development, and heritage conservation within landscapes – are increasingly recognised for their potential to the solution of many of today’s global challenges and for their contributions to people’s identity and quality of life.
A blog on cultural landscapes

For the first time in years, the European Union has decided to invest (through its 7th Framework Programme) in collaborative research on the protection and management of cultural landscapes. Our team of 13 European universities, research centres, small and medium enterprises, and non-governmental organisations is proud to have been selected out of 38 competing consortia to perform this activity. The project – called HERCULES – strives for the empowerment of public and private actors to foster sustainable cultural landscapes at local, national, and pan-European scales. Over a lifetime of three years, we aim increase understanding of drivers, patterns, and social-ecological values of European cultural landscapes. At the same time, we intend to use this knowledge to develop, test, and demonstrate strategies for landscape protection, management, and planning. All our work will be fed into an interactive knowledge hub that will provide policy makers and practitioners with a cutting-edge tool to guide decision-making on European cultural landscapes.

The idea of this “Cultural Landscapes Blog” is to establish a forum that promotes the discourse around cultural landscapes among the communities of landscape science, practice, and policy. For example, we are convinced that many debates such as the question of “land sharing versus land sparing” will greatly benefit from more landscape-informed thoughts. Also, ongoing policy developments, for example the set-up of an intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services or the “greening” of agricultural policies, critically depend on landscape perspectives, but for example the EU does not have a landscape policy and frequently not even landscape expertise. We further believe that there are many innovative landscape practices that deserve exchange beyond local scales.  Also, a lot of meaningful landscape thinking is hidden in scholarly journals, and we hope that this blog contributes to make some of this knowledge more widely accessible. Though HERCULES is a European-scale project, embedding into global research networks, among others the Global Land Project and the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society, will (hopefully) prevent us from a too Euro-centric approach.

This cultural landscapes blog is an experiment. Contributions from the project members and other people affiliated with the project are scheduled to appear once or twice a month. Your contributions are also welcome and indeed necessary to help us widen our scope and touch upon issues we haven't covered ‑ not because we do not consider them of importance, but because landscapes are so full of meanings and widely diverging interests. Landscapes tend to generate intense and passionate debates. We will welcome these kinds of debates and hope that this blog could serve as a rallying point for global, European, national and local landscapes; “scientific” and “lay” approaches; personal and passionate accounts and descriptions. The blog will be constantly refined to make sure it is of relevance and worth the effort. For more information on HERCULES, have a look at our website. Please circulate the news about this blog widely and give us your honest feedback.

Tobias Plieninger
University of Copenhagen
Coordinator of HERCULES

Photo: One of the HERCULES coordinator’s favourite cultural landscapes: Sierra de Guadarrama, Spain, a landscape of high nature value that is affected by periurbanisation from nearby Madrid (Photo: Berta Martín López)

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The information and views set out in this Cultural Landscapes Blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the HERCULES project nor the European Commission.

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