Sustainability Science

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 345–355 | Cite as

Landscape approaches; what are the pre-conditions for success?

  • Jeffrey SayerEmail author
  • Chris Margules
  • Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono
  • Allan Dale
  • Terry Sunderland
  • Jatna Supriatna
  • Ria Saryanthi
Special Feature: Original Article Pathways towards sustainable landscapes


Landscape approaches are widely applied in attempts to reconcile tradeoffs amongst different actors with conflicting demands on land and water resources. Key principles for landscape approaches have been endorsed by inter-governmental processes dealing with climate change mitigation and adaptation and biodiversity conservation.

We review experiences from seven landscapes located in the Congo Basin, Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia. Landscape initiatives were applied in situations where large-scale extractive industries, local peoples’ livelihoods and global biodiversity objectives were in conflict. We found that common published principles for landscape approaches are not applied systematically in the areas studied. Practitioners draw upon landscape approach principles selectively and adapt them to deal with local conditions. We consider that landscape approaches do not provide silver bullet solutions to these situations nor do they provide an operational framework for large-scale land management. Landscape approaches do, however, provide an organising framework for disentangling the complexity of the landscape and facilitating the investigation of impacts of different courses of action. They enable alternative scenarios for what future landscapes might look like to be investigated and they create the space for multi-stakeholder negotiations. Outcomes from landscape scale approaches are determined by the power differentials amongst stakeholders and the existence, or otherwise, of functional institutions to take decisions and enforce agreements. Landscape approaches cannot overcome disparities in power or entrenched interests nor can they substitute for institutions with authority to establish and legitimise property and resource rights. They can, however, provide a mechanism around which civil society can be mobilised to achieve better land use outcomes. Landscape approaches are successful when they have strong leadership, sustained long-term and facilitated processes, good governance, adequate budgets and adequate metrics for assessing progress. Private sector engagement is necessary and all parties must have sufficient shared interest in outcomes to motivate their participation.


Tropical forest conservation Conservation and development trade-offs Forests and livelihoods Agricultural expansion in tropical forests Economic development and forest change Sangha group 



We would like to thank the participants in a workshop held at Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia in July 2014 which provided the inspiration for this paper. Mike Berwick, Penny Johnson, Maria Jose Montano, Rebecca Riggs, Vilbert Vabi Vamiloh, Benny Purnama, Marcellena Prastiwi, James Langston, John Garcia, Lucy McHugh, Hilda Lionata, Adi Widyanto and Emma Carson. The workshop was funded by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and James Cook University Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture and the Center for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science of James Cook University. The work was also supported by the Australian Government Northern Futures Collaborative Research Network.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey Sayer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chris Margules
    • 1
  • Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono
    • 1
  • Allan Dale
    • 2
  • Terry Sunderland
    • 3
  • Jatna Supriatna
    • 4
  • Ria Saryanthi
    • 5
  1. 1.Center for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability ScienceJames Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia
  2. 2.The Cairns InstituteJames Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia
  3. 3.Center for International forestry ResearchBogorIndonesia
  4. 4.Research Center for Climate ChangeUniversity of IndonesiaDepokIndonesia
  5. 5.Burung IndonesiaBogorIndonesia

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