Landscape Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 8, pp 1155–1168 | Cite as

Can a problem-solving approach strengthen landscape ecology’s contribution to sustainable landscape planning?

  • Clive A. McAlpineEmail author
  • Leonie M. Seabrook
  • Jonathan R. Rhodes
  • Martine Maron
  • Carl Smith
  • Michiala E. Bowen
  • Sarah A. Butler
  • Owen Powell
  • Justin G. Ryan
  • Christine T. Fyfe
  • Christine Adams-Hosking
  • Andrew Smith
  • Oliver Robertson
  • Alison Howes
  • Lorenzo Cattarino
Research Article


The need to avert unacceptable and irreversible environmental change is the most urgent challenge facing society. Landscape ecology has the capacity to help address these challenges by providing spatially-explicit solutions to landscape sustainability problems. However, despite a large body of research, the real impact of landscape ecology on sustainable landscape management and planning is still limited. In this paper, we first outline a typology of landscape sustainability problems which serves to guide landscape ecologists in the problem-solving process. We then outline a formal problem-solving approach, whereby landscape ecologists can better bring about disciplinary integration, a consideration of multiple landscape functions over long time scales, and a focus on decision making. This framework explicitly considers multiple ecological objectives and socio-economic constraints, the spatial allocation of scarce resources to address these objectives, and the timing of the implementation of management actions. It aims to make explicit the problem-solving objectives, management options and the system understanding required to make sustainable landscape planning decisions. We propose that by adopting a more problem-solving approach, landscape ecologists can make a significant contribution towards realising sustainable future landscapes.


Adaptive management Communities Decision analysis Economic constraints Landscape sustainability problems Multiple functions Risk Uncertainty 



This paper contains ideas arising from group discussions in the Landscape Ecology and Conservation Group of The University of Queensland, Australia, and experience drawn from multiple research projects funded by the Australian Research Council, Land & Water Australia, local government, non-government organisations and regional natural resource management bodies. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments which greatly improved the quality of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clive A. McAlpine
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Leonie M. Seabrook
    • 1
  • Jonathan R. Rhodes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Martine Maron
    • 1
  • Carl Smith
    • 3
  • Michiala E. Bowen
    • 1
  • Sarah A. Butler
    • 1
  • Owen Powell
    • 1
  • Justin G. Ryan
    • 1
  • Christine T. Fyfe
    • 4
  • Christine Adams-Hosking
    • 1
  • Andrew Smith
    • 1
  • Oliver Robertson
    • 1
  • Alison Howes
    • 1
  • Lorenzo Cattarino
    • 1
  1. 1.Landscape Ecology and Conservation Group, Centre for Spatial Environmental Research, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental ManagementThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.The Ecology CentreThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Integrative SystemsThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.The University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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