Landscape sustainability science (II): core questions and key approaches

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73 Scopus citations


Context: A background assumption of landscape approaches is that some landscape patterns are more sustainable than others, and thus searching for these patterns should be a unifying theme for all landscape-related studies. We know much about biodiversity, ecosystems, and human wellbeing in our landscapes, but much less about how their interactions influence, and are influenced by, landscape patterns. To help fill this knowledge gap, landscape sustainability science (LSS) has emerged. However, the core research questions and key approaches of this new field still need to be systematically articulated. Objectives: The main objectives of this paper were: (1) to propose a set of core research questions for LSS, and (2) to identify key cross-disciplinary approaches that can help address these questions. Methods: I took a qualitative and subjective approach to review and synthesize the literature relevant to landscape sustainability, based on which I developed core questions and identified key cross-disciplinary approaches. Results: Eight core questions were proposed to focus on understanding the relationships among landscape pattern, biodiversity, ecosystem function, ecosystem services, and human wellbeing, assessing the impacts of environmental and socio-institutional changes on these relationships, and fusing knowledge and action through landscape design/planning and governance processes. Ten inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches were identified, and their key characteristics were discussed in relation to landscape sustainability. Conclusions: LSS has emerged as an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research field that aims to understand and improve sustainability by focusing on landscape scales, while considering local and global scales in the same time. To advance LSS, future research not only needs to emphasize the relationships among landscape pattern, ecosystem services, and human wellbeing, but also to proactively integrate complementary approaches across natural and social sciences. Landscape sustainability is inevitably connected to the broader regional and global context; but if global sustainability is to be achieved, our landscapes must be sustained first. It is not the other way around.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2453-2485
Number of pages33
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Climate change
  • Land use change
  • Landscape design/planning
  • Landscape governance
  • Landscape pattern–ecosystem services–human wellbeing relationship
  • Landscape resilience
  • Landscape sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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