Social-Ecological Systems and participatory methods for sustainable landscape management

Marta Pérez-Soba, Wageningen University & Research,

Janet Dwyer, University of Gloucestershire,


Using the conceptual framework of Social-Ecological-Systems (S-E-S), we focus on its application with participatory research to enhance provision of public goods and ecosystem services from EU agriculture and forestry. Building on the PEGASUS project, novel spatial analysis highlights potential for enhanced benefits, and local case studies explore how institutions, markets, collective action and policy can help realise these in contrasting S-E-S. Presentations will show novel techniques and analytical approaches that can be applied to better understand and enhance S-E-S resilience through action by stakeholders and policy makers at local, national and international levels. 


European agriculture and forestry have a crucial role in delivering public goods and ecosystem services, including the preservation of Europe's natural and cultural heritage. However, increasing pressure on natural resources resulting from growing societal demand for food, feed, fibre and biofuel, substantially decreases the high potential delivery. There is a need to develop and mainstream innovative, science-based solutions that allow for producing more with less while ensuring that natural resources are at the disposal of future generations (Cork 2.0 Declaration 2016). Social-Ecological Systems (S-E-S) analysis seeks, like ecology ‘an acceptable qualitative statement of the nature of the relations between the components of the community’ (Watt, 1947), but in this case the community includes both natural and socio-cultural components and embraces both biophysical and socio-economic drivers. Applying this approach to examine the potential to enhance the provision of public goods and ecosystem services from agriculture and forestry has proven to be a powerful means of both understanding complexity and identifying scope for positive action embracing people and policies, across the varied cultural landscapes of the EU. This has been the emerging finding of the H2020-funded EU research project ‘PEGASUS’ (Public and Ecosystem Goods And Services from agriculture and forestry – Unlocking the Synergies:

The theme of the symposium is therefore to discuss and assess how novel techniques and analytical approaches can be applied to better understand how to enhance S-E-S resilience and sustainability through action by stakeholders and policy makers at local, national and international levels.  PEGASUS’ work combines high-level mapping of the complex interplay between farming and forestry systems and ecosystem services; with local-level participatory research in 34 contrasting case study areas in 10 EU Member States, working closely with stakeholders. This has provided a very rich repository of information and ideas to stimulate discussion at the symposium with other researchers working on these challenges at a landscape scale.

The aims of the session will be:

  • to illustrate the application of S-E-S thinking and novel research methods to this societal challenge at contrasting scales and in different spatial contexts;
  • to discuss its potential to generate new and enhanced ideas for effective action through co-learning by researchers, stakeholders and policy makers;
  • thereby to seek lessons and identify scope for future work at international level to strengthen the resilience of valued S-E-S in the context of increasing challenges.

The session will include papers from researchers engaged in PEGASUS and other projects, and one keynote paper from a Japanese landscape researcher closely engaged in the international Satoyama Initiative, which is seeking to stimulate enhanced resilience in high-value cultural landscape management through positive local action. Drawing from international experience, and comparing and contrasting this with EU research findings, will enable us to consider common challenges and potential solutions and to examine how the positioning of academic research as a key ingredient within system-level processes can be a powerful means to identify and enable change.   

What can participants expect to learn?

  • A range of novel analytical approaches linked to spatial assessment techniques and stakeholder engagement to better understand the complexity of interlinkages in Agricultural and Forestry Social Ecological Systems.
  • Application of these techniques at contrasting spatial scales and contexts to enhance sustainable land management.
  • Identification of common challenges and potential solutions based on the range of examples presented.
  • New and improved ideas for effective action through co-learning by researchers, stakeholders and policy makers.


We will explore interest in a special issue on agricultural social-ecological systems, combining authors from different disciplines (social, economy, agro, landscape ecology) and looking at different management systems (including high value cultural systems) in different parts of the world, where the ambition is enhancing the S-E-S resilience. There is already a preliminary agreement with the Editor-in-Chief of the Ecosystem Services journal. 


Oral presentations
Developing tools for citizen participation in landscape planning: case study from the Inner Forth estuary, Scotland
Anja Helena Liski and Marc Metzger School of...
Visions on a common suburban forest as an ecosystem service provider: a case study in Galicia (NW Spain)
Beatriz Rodríguez-Morales(1), José V. Roces-Díaz(...
Social–Ecological–System–thinking in scenario development: Experiences from action-research with a German Orchard Initiative
Christoph Mathias, Simone Sterly, Kerstin...
Using geodesign to support land use management of fen meadow areas in Friesland.
Ron Janssen Spatial Information Laboratory ,...
Evaluation and mapping of cultural ecosystem service for cultural landscape corridor planning by PPGIS of residents: a case of Silk Road
Haiyun Xu, Tobias Plieninger, Jørgen Primdahl...
Extractivist landscapes: Giving to Amazon Socio-biodiversity a Much Needed Push
Sónia Carvalho Ribeiro, Britaldo Soares Filho...
Participatory mapping of ecosystem services as a tool for landscape planning: application to a rural-urban gradient in southern Spain
Sara Palomo Campesino: Social-ecological Systems...
Developing stakeholder visions for woodland expansion in 21st Century Scotland
Vanessa Burton, Marc Metzger (University of...
PPGIS as a new tool for landscape analyses in Central-European context
István Valánszki Szent István University,...
Managing sustainable landscapes: tools for integrating ecological restoration into land planning in the Region of Valencia
Andreu Bonet, Department of Ecology and IMEM,...
Ecosystem potentials to provide services in the view of direct users
Andrzej Affek, Institute of Geography and Spatial...
Prioritizing restoration areas through participation process to increase functional connectivity in the Three-Wattle Bellbird Biological Corridor, Costa Rica.
Silva, E. IMEM, University of Alicante. Alicante...
Using participatory mapping of ecosystem services to inform land management priorities
Katja Schmidt, Landscape Management Group,...
New links between the natural, cultural, and human resources in Satoyama landscapes of Japan
Katsue Fukamachi - Kyoto University
STREAMLINE Visions for the Edinburgh Shoreline by 2050
Aster de Vries Lentsch & Marc Metzger
Collective action in the provision of public goods from agriculture: private initiative and public policies
Teresa Pinto-Correia and Rocio Juste ICAAM -...
Argo Peepson *, Merit Mikk *, Karlheinz Knickel...
Skylark case study: social learning and land lease as mechanisms for the delivery of ecosystem services in intensive arable farming
Judith Westerink, Anne van Doorn, Marta Pérez-...
Poster presentations
Towards sustainable rangeland management: Livelihoods resilience in the context of social-ecological systems
Hojatollah Khedri Gharibvand1,2*, Hossein Azadi1,...