Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1111–1123 | Cite as

A landscape perspective on sustainability of agricultural systems

  • Virginia H. DaleEmail author
  • Keith L. Kline
  • Stephen R. Kaffka
  • J. W. A. (Hans) Langeveld
Research Article


Agricultural sustainability considers the effects of farm activities on social, economic, and environmental conditions at local and regional scales. Adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices entails defining sustainability, developing easily measured indicators of sustainability, moving toward integrated agricultural systems, and offering incentives or imposing regulations to affect farmer behavior. Landscape ecology is an informative discipline in considering sustainability because it provides theory and methods for dealing with spatial heterogeneity, scaling, integration, and complexity. To move toward more sustainable agriculture, we propose adopting a systems perspective, recognizing spatial heterogeneity, integrating landscape-design principles and addressing the influences of context, such as the particular products and their distribution, policy background, stakeholder values, location, temporal influences, spatial scale, and baseline conditions. Topics that need further attention at local and regional scales include (1) protocols for quantifying material and energy flows; (2) standard specifications for management practices and corresponding effects; (3) incentives and disincentives for enhancing economic, environmental, and social conditions (including financial, regulatory and other behavioral motivations); (4) integrated landscape planning and management; (5) monitoring and assessment; (6) effects of societal demand; and (7) integrative policies for promoting agricultural sustainability.


Context Farm Incentives Indicators Scale Spatial heterogeneity Systems 



An earlier version of this paper was reviewed by Laura Musacchio and Anthony Turhollow. We appreciate the editing of this paper by Frederick O’Hara and constructive comments of the three reviewers. This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Office of the Biomass Program. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by the UT-Battelle, LLC, for DOE under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginia H. Dale
    • 1
    Email author
  • Keith L. Kline
    • 1
  • Stephen R. Kaffka
    • 2
  • J. W. A. (Hans) Langeveld
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National LaboratoryCenter for Bioenergy Sustainability and Change Science InstituteOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  3. 3.Biomass ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands

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