Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1053–1065 | Cite as

Landscapes, sustainability and the place-based analysis of ecosystem services

Research Article


There is currently, widespread interest in the assessment of ecosystem services, and the new insights that the concept provides in understanding the ecology of landscapes and the science of sustainability. Three major assessment frameworks can be identified in the contemporary literature, namely one based on habitats, one based on the identification of the system elements that delivers the service, and one based on the understanding of places. Although all are useful for supporting decision making in relation to sustainable development, different situations require different perspectives, and so it is important to understand their advantages and drawbacks. Moreover, it is important to determine how they relate to other approaches used, for example, in landscape planning, so that the contribution that ecosystem assessments can make to sustainability debates can be better understood. The aim of this paper is to describe the strengths of the place-based approach because it is more easily overlooked as an assessment option. In particular we will argue that a place-based approach can help us better understand issues of multi-functionality, the valuation of natural capital and the role of landscape in framing debates about ecosystem services and sustainability. An appreciation of these issues will enable researchers interested in landscape to key questions and priorities in relation to questions of sustainability. Although it is useful to consider different assessment perspectives separately, we conclude that in practice, the habitat and systems approaches can form part of a place-based assessment, just as a better understanding of place can enrich assessments that spring from these more natural science approaches. Nevertheless, in designing analytical strategies to take the ecosystem approach forward, we suggest that it is vital to consider these different perspectives in order to build assessments that are relevant, legitimate and credible, and which can effectively address the problems of sustainability that emerge at the landscape scale.


Ecosystem assessments Ecosystem approach Ecosystem services Place-based approaches Sustainability science Cultural landscapes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Environmental Management, School of GeographyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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