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Turning points towards sustainability: integrative science and policy for novel (but real) landscape futures

Keywords: Landscape ecology , Turning points , Institutions , Integration , Social-ecological systems , Policy , Natural resource management , Sustainability

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Abstract:

Non-metropolitan landscapes are the major theatre of interactions where large-scale alteration occurs precipitated by local to global forces of economic, social and environmental change. However, these regional landscape effects are critical also to local natural resource and social sustainability, ecosystem health through to larger scales of biospheric functioning. The institutions contributing pressures and responses consequently shape future landscapes and in turn influence how social systems, resource users, governments and policy makers perceive those landscapes and their future. These are, in essence, complex social-ecological systems intertwined in a multitude of ways at many spatial scales across time. Over time, the cycles of complex social-ecological systems also reach crossroads, which might be crisis points at which future options are no longer available (possibly because of resource degradation or loss), or turning points where opportunities arise when it is easier to change direction towards more sustainable activities. This paper provides some examples of interdisciplinary research that has provided a holistic integration through close engagement with residents and communities or through deliberately implementing integrative high-risk on-ground experimental models to learn by doing . In the final analysis, each project has characteristically, however, sought to integrate through spatial (if not temporal) synthesis, policy analysis and (new or changed) institutional arrangements that are relevant locally and corporately, as well as at broader levels of government and geography. This has provided transferable outcomes that can contribute real options and adaptive capacity for suitable positive futures.

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