| Land management
Mankind uses land in many ways, as a place to build homes on, to grow crops and to pasture animals for food, as a source of raw materials and mineral wealth, and – of course – for numerous leisure activities, to name a few.
The way land is used is driven by the interplay of economic, social and environmental factors. Land management is about finding the right balance of these, often competing, factors that allows sustainable land use.
Whenever land is put to use, it is subject to stresses that can be quite high, as in the case of intensive agriculture. These stresses may not only affect the biodiversity of the land, such as through the loss of hedgerows, but can also have widespread social impacts – for example, by detracting from the land’s natural beauty. Research on multifunctional land uses looks at land from a holistic perspective to understand how different patterns of use cause different stresses, what the consequences of these stresses are, and how they can be managed or corrected.
The objective of EU-funded research on land management is to develop tools and strategies for sustainable land use. Emphasis is put onto three types of land: agricultural, forest resources and coastal zones. They incorporate the results of the EU’s Fifth Framework Programme ‘City of tomorrow and cultural heritage’ key action.
In addition, this research looks at integrated concepts for multifunctional use of agricultural and forestland, as well as their supply chains, in order to reveal sustainable development options which take into account the economic, social and environmental factors at play.
Research on sustainable land use also includes landscapes, particularly those in sensitive regions such as mountains, coastal zones and islands. How to deal with post-industrialised land and landscapes is also considered. Research involves building databases and models for land management that integrate the multifunctional aspects of environmental protection, rural development, culture and tourism as well as the use of land for agricultural and forestry activities. Attention is also paid to identifying externalities and sustainability thresholds.
Urban spatial development and its impacts on the surrounding countryside also must be addressed to optimise land use and ensure sustainable regional development. Within cities, research carried out under the ‘City of tomorrow and cultural heritage’ key action (see also theme Urban Sustainability and Cultural Heritage) has analysed the process of ‘urban sprawl’ and its impact on sustainability, and developed tools to help define strategies for limiting the expansion of urban areas and ensuring their sustainability. Such strategies include improved integration of land use and transport planning, rehabilitation of brownfield sites, redevelopment of industrial sites and the regeneration of rundown areas.
Sustainable land use worldwide
Agriculture and forestry for sustainable development is a research topic with a strong international dimension. The loss of forestland through felling for wood, and of agricultural land through poor management, affects people and the climate worldwide. Sometimes internal policies indirectly impact international markets.
The research aims at developing qualitative and quantitative models and tools to represent stakeholders’ behaviour and contribute to the ‘impact assessment’ of policies (see Policy Framework page on this site). These models and tools integrate the different specific functions of land associated with agriculture and forestry activities. The final objective is to contribute to the design of sustainable strategies that take account of economic drivers, the socio-cultural needs of people and protection of the environment. The participation of developing countries in this research is encouraged (see International co-operation on this site).
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