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A European Landscape Research Policy

Tom Bloemers
Professor emeritus Archaeological heritage and landscape (Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

One of the ways of appreciating landscape is to consider it as a source of research, action and innovation for its sustainable management by overcoming the divide between disciplines and sectors and between professionals and the public. The European community of researchers shows to be aware of its importance by the Science Policy Briefing on integrative landscape research issued by the European Science Foundation and COST (2).

To link research and action we need better ways to connect integrated landscape research with policy and practice and effective mechanisms for equal collaboration between the physical sciences, humanities and social sciences. This must be supported by formal structures to create and maintain inter-disciplinary understandings of landscape and by widely agreed research aims, theory and methods founded on this integrative paradigm. It requires adequately funded research programmes for both applied and curiosity-drive integrative research. In this way the next generations of scholars can be trained for whom inter-disciplinary and action-related research will be the norm.

Four key areas to co-ordinate future integrated research with respect to current social-economic and environmental challenges are offered as the basis for a future European-scale landscape research programme.

Theme 1 - Universal commons: securing landscape as a common good Landscape is a common good. Many aspirations key to the political agenda, including neighbourliness, quality of life, cultural, economic and environmental sustainability and heritage grow from the universality of landscape as a human value and a social good as well as from its environmental context.

Theme 2 - Roots and routes: coming to terms with mobility and evolving lifestyles A sense of landscape-belonging is for many people connected with home-places where they have grown up or where they live or work. Transported, imported and remembered perceptions of landscape are becoming more common as larger numbers of people routinely migrate or commute across large areas. Landscape offers a way for people to rethink questions of locality and region, and understanding these changes and their effects.

Theme 3 - Reactions and resilience: long-term landscape transformations Relatively little is actually known about the precise mechanics of how people use their mental construction of landscape to adapt to environmental transformation. People's 'construction' of landscape is a vital resource for arresting, directing or coping with transformations, for example through 'change and creation' strategies focused on managing transformations and designing better future landscapes as well as on protecting inherited landscape.

Theme 4 - Road-maps: landscape as baseline and context for future change Environmental monitoring and modelling of current knowledge is advancing rapidly, but there is too little knowledge of the present state and past trajectories of landscape in human, cultural and social terms or of how landscape reached its present state through long-term human-environment interaction for well-founded decision-making for future transformations.

The Briefing concludes with recommendations for establishing a more detailed Vision, a Forum and a European Research Programme to take forward these suggestions.

Knowledge as a product of information, experience, abilities and attitudes can be created everywhere, by professionals and the public both. What we need is a 'community of practice' crossing traditional boundaries and combining research with action motivated by a sense of urgency and a drive for innovative approaches.

Tom Bloemers Professor emeritus Archaeological heritage and landscape (Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Chairman of the Protection and Development of the Dutch Archaeological-Historical Landscape research programme (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, 2000-2010).

(1) Tom Bloemers; Henk Kars; Arnold van der Valk; Mies Wijnen (2010). The Cultural Heritage & Landscape Paradox. Protection and Development of the Dutch Archaeological-Historical Landscape and its European Dimension. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, Landscape & Heritage Studies. ISBN 978 90 8964 155 7. (2)"Landscape in a Changing World. Bridging Divides, Integrating Disciplines, Serving Society, Strasbourg/Brussels", Science Policy Briefing. European Science Foundation/COST, num. 41, October 2010.

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