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Cultural Landscapes BlogIntroducing landscape stewardship

Introducing landscape stewardship

13 March 2015/by T. Plieninger &/Tags:

While governance for cultural landscapes has traditionally followed a preservationist direction (meaning that valuable landscapes were simply put under legal protection), there has been a recent trend towards collaborative action, for which the term “stewardship” is frequently used. Stewardship is relevant at all kinds of spatial levels (from very local ones up to “planetary stewardship”) and in many different sectors (for example, there is “agricultural stewardship”, “forest stewardship”, or “environmental stewardship”). Here, we introduce the term „landscape stewardship“ into the HERCULES project to describe all collaborative efforts toward landscape sustainability. But what exactly are the implications of landscape stewardship?
Introducing landscape stewardship

In our view, the following are important defining features:

1) Landscape stewardship seeks to simultaneously improve cultural heritage, food production, biodiversity conservation, and other landscape values;

2) Landscape stewardship works at a landscape scale and includes deliberate planning, policy, management, or supports activities at this scale;

3) Landscape stewardship is self-organized and highly participatory; and

4) Landscape stewardship values a diversity of perspectives and “ways of knowing”.

The recent rise of people and initiatives striving for landscape stewardship is consequence, on the one hand, of an increasing demand for high-amenity landscapes and, on the other hand, of a general decentralisation of landscape planning and policy in many countries. Landscape stewardship is centred on “everyday” (often peri-urban) landscapes that are exposed to multiple societal demands, whether for infrastructure purposes, urbanization, nature conservation, agricultural land uses, or outdoor recreation.

This blog opens a series of around 15 contributions that will develop different perspectives on the science and practice of landscape stewardship. We have invited outstanding experts from various disciplines, backgrounds, and countries to contribute their thoughts on landscape stewardship. Our idea is that these blog entries lay the foundation for an edited volume on landscape stewardship. Over the next weeks, a first set of blog contributions will be dedicated to the foundations of landscapes stewardship, including their social, ecological, practical, and technological implications. In the second set of contributions, we’ll move to the practical application of landscape stewardship in several fields. With a geographic focus on Europe, we’ll consider the principles and functioning of landscape stewardship as related to major land use practices and landscape values. Long-standing issues like agricultural and forestry practices, habitat restoration, and cultural heritage conservation will be addressed, alongside more recently emerging topics like urban farming and renewable energy supply. In the third set of contributions, we’ll take a future-oriented perspective, exploring and substantiating visions of landscape stewardship. Here, we’ll start with a global view on prospects for integrating practices, knowledge, and experiences of landscape stewardship. Connecting this to concrete action, we’ll discuss the prospects of incorporating landscape stewardship concepts in landscape planning and land-use policy. We also plan to highlight the role of art and creative practices for fostering landscape stewardship.

So why are we using the HERCULES blog as a platform? Of course, we want to raise your interest in landscape stewardship and also making you curious about our future book. But, more importantly, we are using this blog to test our ideas and to ask for your feedback. In particular, we are looking for real-world cases of good practices that exemplify the principles of landscape stewardship and that serve as a model to inspire implementation in other landscapes. These practices can cover individual action for landscapes, collaborative engagement at community level, and innovative landscape policies at regional scales. Possible examples include a heritage community that integrates features of the local long-term history into modern settlement development, a farmers’ network dedicated to sustaining soil fertility by exchanging experiential knowledge via movies, and an artist’s initiative advocating sustainable human-nature relationships by offering sensory experiences with the local landscape. Please share your models by adding a comment!


Photo credit: diamond geezer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0,

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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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