Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1047–1052 | Cite as

Is landscape sustainability a useful concept in a changing world?

Research Article


The world is changing rapidly, challenging the sustainability of landscapes and the resources and ecosystem services they provide to people and to plants and animals. Changes in land use and climate will alter the structure and composition of landscapes, and landscape functions may also be disrupted if the changes drive systems past thresholds into novel, no-analog configurations. Although landscapes will persist in some form, it is unlikely that they will provide the same values to people or habitat for wildlife that are the focus of current sustainability efforts. Tradeoffs among services to people or resources for wildlife will be inevitable. For the concept of sustainability to be relevant under these conditions, we must ask, “Sustainability of what, for whom?” Landscapes cannot be all things to all people (or organisms). Decisions about how to balance competing needs and goals and set priorities requires an understanding of landscape structure, function, and change—the foundation elements of landscape ecology.


Climate change Ecosystem services Land use change Landscape structure Scale Sustainability Thresholds 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PRBO Conservation SciencePetalumaUSA
  2. 2.School of Plant BiologyUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  3. 3.CorvallisUSA

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