The terms “landscape” and “landscape approach” have been increasingly applied within the international environmental realm, with many international organizations and nongovernmental organizations using landscapes as an area of focus for addressing multiple objectives, usually related to both environmental and social goals. However, despite a wealth of literature on landscapes and landscape approaches, ideas relating to landscape approaches are diverse and often vague, resulting in ambiguous use of the terms. Our aim, therefore, was to examine some of the main characteristics of different landscape approaches, focusing on how these might be applied in the process of taking a landscape approach. Drawing on a review of the literature, we identify and discuss three different kinds of landscape approaches: using the landscape scale, a sectoral landscape approach, and an integrated landscape approach. Focusing on an integrated landscape approach, we examine five concepts to help characterize landscape approaches: multifunctionality, transdisciplinarity, participation, complexity, and sustainability. For each term, a continuum of application exists. To help improve and move the integrated landscape approach more toward operationalization, more focus needs to be placed on the process of taking the approach. Although the process can be implemented in a range of ways, in a more integrated approach it will require explicitly defined objectives as well as a clear understanding of what is meant by multifunctionality and sustainability. It will also require collaborative participation, transdisciplinarity/cross-sectoral approaches, managing for adaptive capacity, and applying an iterative process to address the inherent complexity within the system. Although these concepts are not new, we present continuums on which they can exist, allowing for clarification and distinctions to be made regarding what it means to take a landscape approach.
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The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) is a multi-stakeholder platform with a global secretariat led by CIFOR and core funding provided by the Government of Germany. The GLF accelerates action towards the creation of productive, prosperous, equitable and climate-resilient landscapes and the achievement of the UNFCCC Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030).