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Landscape Change and its Social-Ecological Dimensions

From Chinese terraces via Iberian woodland pastures up to European mining sites: Around the world and at all times, humans have entered into interaction with their surrounding landscapes in diverse ways, and to different degrees of intensity.

As a consequence, these landscapes have been and still are subject to profound, and more or less sustainable transformations. Landscape change, however, also has significant implications for people living in the areas or close by — shaping their perceptions, understandings, and options for action.

Exactly these interlinkages and the effects for people and nature are at the core of most of our research.

People • Nature • Landscapes traces the backgrounds, personal motivations, results and repercussions of our social-ecological studies, as well as the experiences and insights we gain along the way. During the last months, these have been manifold.

Recent Stories

An indigenous farmer riding his mule on the way to his land in the mountains. Photo: WANG Hulin

Learning from Indigenous People in Chinese Dryland Terraces

“What drivers do act upon local agricultural systems, and how do local people react to them?” In this story, Tianyu Guo reports on his narrative research on agricultural heritage with local people in the Shexian dryland terraces in Northern China.

Farm in Morocco, shown first on ConServeTerra Twitter Feed, April 13, 2021. Photo by Yahia Boukharsa

Support the Soil, Support Ourselves: The Benefits Beneath Our Feet

“Soils are the foundation of life.” But why are techniques to support healthy soils, such as Conservation Agriculture, only rarely taken up by farmers in the Mediterranean? Emmeline Topp tells us about her studies of social and cultural factors influencing farmers’ decisions in Spain, Morocco and Tunisia.

Agricultural landscape with flower strip, Photo by Stefan Schüler

KOOPERATIV: A Participatory Landscape Experiment

Stefan Schüler’s research revolves around agricultural cooperation as a most efficient way to implement agri-environmental measures, such as perennial flower-strips. In these two stories, he lets us know about the conceptual background of the KOOPERATIV project, as well as about the landscape experiment that will take place in Northeim, Germany.

Traditional farming practice in the Eastern Himalayas. Source: IIED, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Embracing Nature and Culture: Biocultural Approaches to Sustainability

“Biocultural approaches aim to consider the diversity of life in all its manifestations, thereby acknowledging a plurality of worldviews and human-nature interactions.” Imke Horstmannshoff provides a summary of a review on biocultural studies, including their different categories, the potentials they hold, and recommendations on how to unleash them.

Figure 1. A shared understanding is essential to conduct effective participatory processes. Source: Garau et al., 2021.

Of Fish Sticks and Landscapes: Why Sustainable Planning Needs Shared Understandings

Mental models have important implications for participatory processes in sustainable landscape planning and management. They thus form the subject of Enrica Garau’s studies, which focus on local people’s differing perceptions of two Spanish river basins.

Laura Kmoch and two research assistants in northern Chin State, Myanmar. Photo: Malte Øhlers.

Laura Kmoch: Agroforestry Landscapes and Transforming Highland Livelihoods

A dialogue with our new team member Laura Kmoch, on her background and expertise concerning rural livelihoods, climate vulnerability and land-use dynamics, as well as on upcoming fieldwork and place-based research in Morocco and western Myanmar.

Cinereous vulture: A conservation success story of Extremadura (Photo: Agustín Povedano, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Extremadura: How to Develop a Less Favored Area of High Nature Value?

“Extremadura, Spain, is a region where rich natural and cultural heritage are under pressure from multiple socioeconomic challenges.” Tobias Plieninger shares personal impressions and learnings from three decades of rural development in this outstanding region.

Research questions organized within the DPSIR framework. Source: T. Plieninger et al. 2021.

Landscapes of High Value: Changing Dynamics of Agroforestry on the Iberian Peninsula

With the dehesa and montado, Spain and Portugal host some of the most exciting European agroforestry landscapes. They are of especially high nature value and crucially depend on human cultivation. Imke Horstmannshoff summarizes the results of a synthesis of 35 years of research on dehesa and montado conservation.

The mine reclamation plan of the Vršany coal mine, Czech Republic. Kamila explaining the plan to students at a Mine Reclamation course. Photo: Markéta Hendrychová

What to Do after Mine Closure? Pursuing Community Benefits in the Transition to Post-Mining

Mining represents a particularly intense way of human intervention in landscapes, with immense impacts on regional economies, culture and social life. Kamila Svobodova, who recently joined our group, provides insights into her background and her social-ecological research on post-mining sites around the world.

Upcoming Story

In our next post, Laura Kmoch will report on her and Mairon Bastos Lima’s studies on The politics of “last frontiers” in Brazil and Myanmar. Presenting a critical framework for analyses of the dynamics around resource frontiers, they argue that neglect, abandonment and social exclusion are enduring features of the latter.

Roadworks en route from Kalay to northern Chin State, Myanmar. Photo: Laura Kmoch

Enjoy reading!

Any remarks? Feel free to share your opinion with us in a comment or two. Looking forward to your feedback

— the Social-Ecological Interactions group

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