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Research Report

A framework for measuring sustainability outcomes for landscape investments

Himlal Baral
Peter Holmgren
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2015
Pages: 31
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-4)

    Our contention is that aspirations towards global sustainable development are dependent on how the world’s ecosystems and their components are managed predominantly at the landscape level. Challenges of global food supply, welfare and livelihoods for billions of people, carbon sequestration, conservation of biodiversity and provisions of renewable energy, water and soil fertility all need to be addressed at the landscape level. Recent studies indicate that sustainable use of many of our renewable resources is being exceeded on a global scale and that we should approach future use with great care (Tilman et al. 2001; Seppelt et al. 2014; Warman 2014)....

  2. (pp. 5-6)

    Sustainability means different things to different people, depending on their contextual circumstances, (Gafsi et al. 2006; Sydorovych and Wossink 2008; Efroymson et al. 2013). Two schools of thought on sustainability are commonly reported in the environmental and sustainable development literature. First, sustainability is an “achievement” that can be defined and measured, using certain criteria and indicators (Dahl 2012; Moldan et al. 2012). A great deal of progress has been made in defining and assessing sustainability in this regard over the past decades.

    The second school of thought assumes sustainability is aspirational rather than a state, which can only be defined...

  3. (pp. 7-8)

    Scientists and various agencies have developed hundreds of indicators and indices to measure sustainable development (McRae et al. 2012; Singh et al. 2012). These have been used at various scales since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and some important indices are summarized in Table 3.

    Sustainability indices such as those in Table 3 are mainly used for nationwide reporting of sustainable development outcomes and are not applicable in landscape investment. For example, many are political and they typically include absolute targets that are time and context-specific. Numerous authors have proposed indicators and indices for sustainable agriculture (e.g. Sands and...

  4. (pp. 9-9)

    In the previous section, a wide range of sustainability indicators or indices proposed by various organizations and authors were mentioned. Drawing from the literature on those indicators, we identify key desirable properties for parameters and associated indicators that will be use to define the parameters and indicators for assessment of landscape sustainability. There is growing interest in concise and balanced sets of parameters that provide meaningful information on the key dimensions of sustainable landscape to policy makers, land managers and the general public. We propose a framework comprising a small number of key parameters of sustainable landscape development, each of...

  5. (pp. 10-14)

    Based on the desirable properties for sustainable landscape parameters (Table 4), we propose a set of four broad parameters derived from the literature that can be applied to assess the sustainability within any landscape – in terms of livelihood provisions, ecosystem services, efficient resource use and delivery of food, wood and raw materials (Figure 1). We acknowledge that this broad grouping does not provide a complete list of parameters to evaluate the sustainability of a landscape. Beyond these basic landscape parameters, there is a need to address aspects of governance (e.g. land tenure, existence/implementation of legal frameworks) and other aspects...

  6. (pp. 15-16)

    Sustainable land-use practices for forestry and agriculture in particular will need to play crucial roles in achieving several of the UN’s SDGs – since the outcomes from sustainable landscape development are closely connected with a large number of the SDGs and targets (Jones and Wolosin 2014; Mayers 2014; Table 8). Although agriculture and forestry are only explicitly mentioned in three of the SDG targets (2.3, 2.4 and 15.2, see UN 2015 for SDGs and targets) the importance of the land-use sector beyond food security and sustainable forest management is evident from their contributions to at least eight other SDGs (see...

  7. (pp. 17-17)

    We have developed and presented a framework that aims to assist in measuring sustainability outcomes in landscapes and designed to apply to any landscape setting around the world.

    We have identified that sustainable development aspirations must be met to a large extent through better land use and landscape management. Moving from current and often unsustainable land-use practices to sustainable land use may defer profit or reduce production in the short term, but this loss is offset by future longer term gains (Dale et al. 2012). In many cases, change to more sustainable and productive practices by rural land managers may...