Sustainable futures for Europe’s cultural landscapes – insights from integrating a cultural perspective into landscape ecology

Matthias Bürgi, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL,

Tobias Plieninger, University of Copenhagen,


In this session, we will report on insights gained, success stories and shortcomings of HERCULES, a EU-funded project on “Sustainable Futures for Europe’s Cultural Landscapes” conducted from 2013 to 2016. To embed project findings into the wider landscape community, we enter in dialogue with other landscape researchers to present their activities and thoughts on ways to empower public and private actors to protect and sustainably manage cultural landscapes.


From 2013 to 2016, funded by the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) of the EU, the HERCULES project studied various aspects of the sustainable management of cultural landscapes across Europe  ( The objectives of HERCULES were very much in line with the core topic of the IALE 2017  European Congress, i.e. ”From pattern and process to people and action”. HERCULES explicitly aimed at developing visions for re-coupling social and ecological components in cultural landscapes and to translate them into policy and management options. Moreover, a Knowledge Hub was set up, including an inventory of Good Landscape Practices to be evaluated and tested with land users, agencies, small and medium-sized enterprises, and citizen associations.

The end of this project offers the opportunity to report on its findings, assess its success (and shortcomings) and to jointly think about future avenues for inter- and transdisciplinary research on cultural landscapes. In this session, we will present results from several core work packages, outreach products, and draw some overall conclusions.

The field has developed since 2013, and HERCULES is by far not the only activity with an interest in citizen-based stewardship of cultural landscapes. We therefore want to accommodate and present experiences from projects with similar aims, but using different tools and forms of outreach, joint learning and citizen science approaches, such as Cheriscape, VOLANTE and similar, including more local, initiatives. 

What can participants expect to learn?

We aim at presenting a diversity of methods, tools and approaches to promote the sustainable development of cultural landscapes across Europe. Contributions and insights from HERCULES will be complemented with and contrasted to results of other projects.


The central results of HERCULES will be published in two special issues of “Landscape Ecology” and “Landscape Research”. If the set of non-HERCULES approaches presented allows to draw more general conclusions on participatory monitoring and landscape stewardship, a multi-author perspective paper might be aimed at.