Participatory research helps sustainable landscape management


By Marta Pérez-Soba & Janet Dwyer

Participatory research helps sustainable landscape management”. This was the overall conclusion of the Symposium on “Social-Ecological Systems and participatory methods for sustainable landscape management”, organised by PEGASUS at the IALE 2017 European Congress ‘From pattern and process to people and action’ in Ghent (Belgium) on 21 September 2017.

With two key notes, 18 presentations, one poster and a final panel discussion, our symposium provided a broad overview of the current research methods and tools that involve participatory approaches with stakeholders. Speakers focused upon the complex interplay of socio-economic/cultural and natural elements within a social-ecological systems framework, rather than only dealing with nature or socio-economics separately.

Whilst the presentations covered a broad range of landscapes, from urban and peri-urban to rural, including European, Brazilian and Japanese cases, they all confirmed the importance of using a range of methods and tools to effectively stimulate the creativity, awareness and active participation of local communities, in order to ensure the responsible planning and management of resources. It was noted that a combination of market-oriented, private initiative with public support measures seems more effective than isolated measures, and that legislative frameworks and audit rules do not always support innovation. Supporting local capacity building is also crucial to develop collaboration skills among the key actors, to make management fully effective and to foster resilience.  

New methods and tools can help to map landscape socio-biodiversity and help to reveal management priorities by identifying which ecosystem services matter to which people. Many of the cases, including the Satoyama initiative in Japan, Montes comunales in Galicia (NW Spain) and Montados in Portugal, showed that many of the connections between human beings and the landscape that existed in the past, have disappeared today. It is therefore important to restore the human-nature connectivity focusing on traditional landscape elements and citizens’ ownership. As cultural landscapes have been built over many years, it is logical to invest in long-term research that enables us to measure the impacts of improved management practices on the ecosystem.

In a society where citizens may valorise their own experience more than scientific or technical prescriptions, it seems crucial that research considers innovative ideas and proposes community-focused solutions to the landscape management challenges facing EU society today and into the future. Participatory methods and tools have a crucial role to play in achieving this.


Photo: Key-note speaker Katsue Fukamachi at the end of her presentation (left), with the organisers Janet Dwyer and Marta Pérez-Soba