Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1099–1110 | Cite as

Six principles for managing forests as ecologically sustainable ecosystems

  • David B. LindenmayerEmail author
  • Saul A. Cunningham
Research Article


Managing a landscape for its natural resources while attempting to ensure an ecologically sustainable future is a truly complex and challenging task. We present six general principles for sustainable forest landscape management derived from insights in an array of natural and commodity production ecosystems in south-eastern Australia but which are likely to have broad applicability to many forested ecosystems worldwide. These principles are: (1) Landscape management problems are typically underpinned by human-use drivers that over-commit natural resources and undermine the ecosystem services which support the replenishment of those resources. (2) Not all parts of a landscape are equal in their contribution to species persistence and ecological processes. Special steps are needed to secure the ecological integrity of these disproportionately important areas. (3) Managing connectivity is critical, but it is essential to determine what kind of connectivity is desirable, and for what species and processes. (4) Land use practices can produce spatial and temporal cumulative effects with negative impacts on biodiversity and ecological processes. (5) Land use decisions on the land sparing–land sharing spectrum are highly scale and context dependent. (6) Our understanding of landscape-scale processes is shaped by our conceptual model of the landscape. It is therefore important to check if a given mental model is appropriate for a given landscape and the species or ecological processes of concern. These six principles should not be applied uncritically. Rather, it is best to treat them as a checklist of considerations that will help guide our thinking about landscape change, so that we can orient toward more ecologically sustainable landscape management.


Ecologically sustainable landscape management Landscape management principles Commodity production landscapes Conservation management Land sparing 



We thank Laura Musacchio for encouraging us to write this paper. Claire Shepherd assisted in many aspects of manuscript preparation. Comments by Laura Musacchio, Sue McIntyre, Martin Henery and three anonymous reviewers greatly improved earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental DecisionsThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.National Environmental Research ProgramThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.CSIRO Ecosystem SciencesCanberraAustralia

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