Planning Approaches for Sustainable Land Management: International Examples and Innovative Solutions

A report reviewing international approaches to sustainable land management from a planning perspective, commissioned under the  ‘Sustainable Land Management’ applied research programme funded by the German federal ministry for Education and Research has just been published. The report (in German) is the output of more than twelve months work at HafenCity University in 2012 and 2013. The English language abstract is reproduced below. The full report is available to download from the website of the research  programme’s scientific coordination (Leibniz- Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research – ZALF).



The expertise ‘Planning Approaches for a Sustainable Land Management’ was commissioned by the scientific coordination team of Module B – Innovative System Solutions (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research – ZALF) of the Sustainable Land Management research pro-gramme, funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The concept of sustainable land management brings with it the potential for an integrated research, policy and practice perspective which transcends disciplinary boundaries and focuses on the management of land as a finite resource in the interests of the common good. In particular, sustainable land manage-ment seeks to combine perspectives from spatial planning, agriculture and forestry and envi-ronmental resource management. This discussion paper focuses on the potential contribution of innovative international approaches from the fields of planning and governance to sustainable land management. The selection of international approaches followed a review of the interna-tional scientific, applied research and policy literatures. As part of Module B, the selection of international approaches also sought to address the goals of the wider funding measure and to respond to the requirements of the researchers and practitioners working within the projects funded in Module B. Two expert workshops held in March and April 2013 provided important feedback on the selection of innovative approaches as well as the methodology of the expertise. The final selection of innovative approaches comprises the following:

 Adaptive Co-Management
 Socio-technical Transitions-Management
 Strategic Spatial Planning and Development
 Spatial Fit, Functional Governance and Variable Geometry
 Spatial Decision Support Systems and Scenario Development
 Green Infrastructure
 Brownfield Redevelopment and Urban Land Management
The estimated relative contribution of each approach is assessed according to eight thematic criteria and in each case graphically represented through network diagrams. This qualitative assessment may be understood as a tool for researchers and practitioner experts to make a quick assessment regarding the relevance of a particular approach to the specific challenges or tasks they face.

The discussion paper concludes that the development of innovative solutions for sustainable land management in Germany can draw significantly on international approaches where experi-ence has demonstrated the relative merits of a wide range of distinct approaches. Learning from international experience must, however, always be approached with a degree of caution. Rather than the simple transfer of best or good practice approaches from abroad, we would, however emphasise the importance of sensitivity to context. Socio-economic, cultural, political, legal and environmental factors provide the framework conditions through which sustainable land man-agement is practised. Indeed, it is also possible to learn from policy failure and shortcomings associated with individual approaches which practical experience in other countries have served to demonstrate. The approaches elaborated here also reflect the goal-orientation and research approach of the funding measure Sustainable Land Management itself. Indeed this expertise has served to confirm the commitment of the Sustainable Land Management to a transdisciplinary approach including engagement with a wide range of scientific disciplines and practice-based stakeholders coming from diverse professional backgrounds. The importance of integrated perspectives, crossing sectoral and professional boundaries is central to the adaptive co-management, strategic spatial planning and functional governance approaches presented above. Sustainable land management, through its practice-oriented approach seeks to combine strate-gic planning and governance with practical implementation measures and the development of targeted solutions to address specific challenges. This key relationship between medium to long-term strategy-making and short-term implementation is similarly found as a core element of the approaches presented here. This is particularly the case with regard to socio-technical transition management, strategic spatial planning, green infrastructure and brownfield redevelopment. Finally, the expertise highlights the importance of a focus on communication. Core concepts such as green infrastructure, ecosystem services and adaptive governance can play a central role in developing awareness and understanding and interest among diverse stakeholders. Indeed, sustainable land management, when associated with the principles and values outlined here, has the potential to act as powerful concept. Furthermore the discussion has identified a number of farther reaching research questions that might be of interest for further elaborating the process and governance dimension of sustainable land-management.


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