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Cultural Landscapes BlogWP1: Synthesizing the knowledge about landscape change and values in Europe

WP1: Synthesizing the knowledge about landscape change and values in Europe

6 September 2016/by Thanasis Kizos/Tags: WP1, synthesis, knowledge, landscape change

When the idea of submitting a proposal for a project that would deal with “cultural landscapes” came up in 2012, there was a lot of ambiguity to what cultural landscapes are and what the proposal should be about. Yes, there were the specifications of the call, but even in these cultural landscapes were mostly linked with “heritage” as well as with society and its values and the environment. The HERCULES team had a slightly different understanding of the concept, linking cultural landscapes with an evolving and changing perception of space and its management (fortunately the reviewers accepted this more dynamic view). This ambiguity guided also the allocation of tasks within the project, as we realized that we needed to carefully scan what was the “state of the art” in cultural landscape science. At the heart of our interest were the questions of how, why and how fast cultural landscapes changed. In addition, we were interested in reviewing more practical and “hands on” initiatives related with cultural landscapes management and conservation. This was the task of Work Package 1 (I will leave the conception that this kind of work can be meaningfully divided into “packages” for a future discussion…).
WP1: Synthesizing the knowledge about landscape change and values in Europe

The aim was to have a WP that would form the conceptual and theoretical backbone of the project that would take stock of existing knowledge on drivers, patterns and outcomes of persistence and change in Europe’s cultural landscapes.

Its objectives were (a) to define core concepts around cultural landscapes and set-up a comprehensive and interdisciplinary framework to ensure consistency within the project; (b) to search the scientific literature to identify and quantify drivers, patterns and outcomes of persistence and change in landscapes; (c) to identify the actors responsible for and impacted by cultural landscape change and (d) to synthesize archetypical combinations of drivers and outcomes of landscape dynamics at multiple spatial scales.

These sound ambitious and were largely achieved, although the last part (the synthesis) is still in the final stages of completion. There are some “Deliverables” that… well delivered the results officially, but most of the work has already been published in scientific journals as well. The framework for cultural landscapes was published in 2015 (1); the meta-analysis on drivers of landscape change in 2016 (2) and the research on actors of landscape initiatives also in 2016 (3). What has not been published and is of value is a “dictionary of terms” on cultural landscapes (that was part of D1.1 and will be made available on the website of the project) and the meta-analysis on rates of landscape change. Two more papers are under preparation for the synthesis part due in November 2016 and part of the final Deliverable D1.4. But this is not all! 15 more papers have been published as a partial result of HERCULES WP1 activities (you can see a list below), which makes us particularly proud.

To try to summarize these findings in the limited space of a blog seems much more difficult than doing the actual research, so I will not do it here. The most important of these findings are summarized in the so-called “Infographics” which you can see as illustration to the post (and also here.)

I will close this with a very small personal note: Being responsible for this WP has been one of the best experiences of my scientific life. It gave me the chance to work together with people I knew before but also met here and who I admire very much. Plus, it was so easy! Thank you all very much...


The (still partial) list of publications that at least in part are related with the project:

1. Bieling, C., Plieninger, T., Pirker, H., Vogl, C.R. (2014) Linkages between landscapes and human well-being: An empirical exploration with short interviews, Ecological Economics, 105, 2014, 19-30, 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.05.013

2. Hernández-Morcillo, M., Hoberg, J. , Oteros-Rozas, E., Plieninger, T., Gómez-Baggethun, E. and Reyes-García, V. (2014) Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Europe: Status Quo and Insights for the Environmental Policy Agenda, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 56, 2014, 3-17, 10.1080/00139157.2014.861673

3. Ohnesorge, B., Plieninger, T. and Hostert, P. (2014) Management effectiveness and land cover change in dynamic cultural landscapes—assessing a Central European biosphere reserve, Ecology and Society, 18, 2014, 2310.5751/ES-05888-180423

4. Plieninger, T. and Bieling, C. (2014) Resilience-based perspectives to guiding high-nature-value farmland through socioeconomic change, Ecology and Society, 18, 2014, 20, 10.5751/ES-05877-180420

5. Plieninger, T., Bieling, C., Ohnesorge, B., Schaich, H., Schleyer, C. and Wolff, F. (2013) Exploring futures of ecosystem services in cultural landscapes through participatory scenario development in the Swabian Alb, Germany, Ecology and Society, 18, 2013, 39, 10.5751/ES-05802-180339

6. Plieninger, T., Hui, C., Gaertner, M. Huntsinger, L. (2014) The impact of land abandonment on species richness and abundance in the Mediterranean basin: A meta-analysis, PLOS ONE, 9, 2014, e98355, 10.1371/journal.pone.0098355

7. Sustaining ecosystem services in cultural landscapes (2014) Plieninger, T., Van der Horst, D., Schleyer, C. and Bieling, C., Ecology and Society, 19, 2014, 59, 10.5751/ES-06159-190259

8. Raymond, C.M., Kenter, J.O., Plieninger, T., Turner, N. J. and Alexander, K.A. (2014) Comparing instrumental and deliberative paradigms underpinning the assessment of social values for cultural ecosystem services, Ecological Economics, 107, 2014: 145-156.

9. van Zanten, B.T., Verburg, P.H., Koetse, M.J., van Beukering, P.J.H. (2014) Preferences for European agrarian landscapes: A meta-analysis of case studies, Landscape and Urban Planning, 2014 132, 89-101,

10. Schaich, H., Kizos, T., Schneider, S. and Plieninger, T. (2015) Land change in Eastern Mediterranean wood-pasture landscapes: the case of deciduous oak woodlands in Lesvos (Greece), Environmental Management, 2015 56: 110-126, 10.1007/s00267-015-0496-y

11. Plieninger, T., Levers, C., Mantel, M., Costa, A., Schaich, H. and Kuemmerle, T. (2015) Patterns and drivers of scattered tree loss in agricultural landscapes: Orchard meadows in Germany (1968-2009),

12. PLOS ONE, 2015 10: e0126178, 10.1371/journal.pone.0126178

13. Oteros-Rozas, E., Martín-López, B., Daw, T., Bohensky, E., Butler, J., Hill, R., Martin-Ortega, J., Quinlan, A., Ravera, F., Ruiz-Mallén, I., Thyresson, M., Mistry, J., Palomo, I., Peterson, G., Plieninger, T., Waylen, K., Beach, D., Bohnet, I., Hamann, M., Hanspach, J., Hubacek, K., Lavorel S. and Vilardy, S. (2015) Participatory scenario-planning in place-based social-ecological research: Insights and experiences from 23 case studies, Ecology and Society, 2015 20 (4), 32,

14. Raymond, C.M., Bieling, C., Fagerholm, N., Martin-Lopez, B., Plieninger, T. (2016) The farmer as a landscape steward: Comparing local understandings of landscape stewardship, landscape values, and land management actions, AMBIO,

15. Levers, C., Müller, D., Erb, K., Haberl, H., Rudbeck Jepsen, M., Metzger, M.J., Meyfroidt, P., Plieninger, T., Plutzar, C., Stürck, J., Verburg, P.H., Verkerk, P.J., Kuemmerle, T. (2016) Archetypical patterns and trajectories of land systems in Europe, Regional Environmental




(1) Plieninger, T., T. Kizos, C. Bieling, L. Le Dû-Blayo, M.-A. Budniok, M. Bürgi, C. L. Crumley, G. Girod, P. Howard, J. Kolen, T. Kuemmerle, G. Milcinski, H. Palang, K. Trommler, and P. H. Verburg. (2015) Exploring ecosystem-change and society through a landscape lens: recent progress in European landscape research. Ecology and Society 20(2): 5.

(2) Plieninger, T., Draux, H., Fagerholm, N., Bieling, C., Bürgi, M., Kizos, T., Kuemmerle, T., Primdahl, J., Verburg, P.H. (2016) The driving forces of landscape change in Europe: A systematic review of the evidence, Land Use Policy, 57, pp. 204-214, ISSN 0264-8377,

(3) García-Martín, M., Bieling, C., Hart, A., Plieninger, T. (2016) Integrated landscape initiatives in Europe: Multi-sector collaboration in multi-functional landscapes, Land Use Policy 58 (2016) 43–53,


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