Landscape Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 479–493

Clarifying Integrative Research Concepts in Landscape Ecology

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10980-004-3290-4

Cite this article as:
Tress, G., Tress, B. & Fry, G. Landscape Ecol (2005) 20: 479. doi:10.1007/s10980-004-3290-4


Integrative research approaches are intensely discussed in landscape ecology, in academia and in research policy. However, confusion over the terminology hampers communication. Many current landscape ecological research projects have difficulties to agree on a common understanding of the core concepts associated with different forms of integrative research. This is also evidenced by the lack of discussion of integrative research concepts in published papers. This hinders integration in research projects and makes the comparison and evaluation of the outcomes of different research concepts impossible. This paper discusses and defines the meanings of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary (= integrative) research approaches to ease discourse on their application in landscape ecological research. It reviews definitions of the concepts found in the research literature and develops definitions of integrative and associated research concepts (disciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity) based on their degree of disciplinary integration and involvement of non-academics. Integrative concepts are viewed as a continuum rather than as fixed categories. The paper discusses the need to develop integrative theory and methods and argues that we should be more explicit when using integrative research concepts in project proposals, project work and publications. Finally, the paper reflects on the ongoing discussion in landscape ecology concerning whether it is developing from an integrative research field towards a discipline in its own right.


DisciplinesEpistemologyIntegrative researchInterdisciplinarityMultidisciplinarityResearch evaluationTransdisciplinarity

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alterra Green World ResearchLandscape CentreWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Sciences, Land Use Planning GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Landscape PlanningThe Agricultural University of NorwayNorway