A collaborative landscape design approach may improve resilience and human well-being

A collaborative landscape design approach may improve resilience and human well-being

In this paper, the team provides examples of how regenerative landscape design is applied in practice around the world. In the Chesapeake Bay region, the framework could be used to restore coral reefs and other coastal habitats. In the example, interlocking issues such as extreme weather, flooding, regional economic needs, cultural and historical values, and water quality are collectively addressed. The research team demonstrated how RLD can provide opportunities for collaborative design of optimal land use plans that restore and enhance water quality while adding value to communities through flood protection. They also shared how participatory research with landowners can help define social, environmental and economic goals for potential restoration activities.

In Kenya, RLD could be used to create more sustainable agro-pastoral landscapes, land that accommodates crop growing and livestock farming, the researchers said. In this example, the research team describes systems that not only withstand future challenges such as locust swarms or climate change, but also actively work toward a better state by addressing past land-use errors and taking social and environmental factors into account.

“Designing regenerative landscapes is a new frontier in systems science, one rooted in collaboration, ethics, and a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of social and natural systems,” Smithwick said. “It is a call to work together to create more resilient, equitable and sustainable landscapes.”

In addition to Smithwick, Iolo, and Glenna, other Penn State authors are Jennifer Baca, School of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS); Douglas Byrd, College of Liberal Arts; Charles Andrew Cole, College of Arts and Architecture; Jose De Fuentes, EMS; Carter Hunt, College of Health and Human Development; and Jason Kay; College of Agricultural Sciences. Other authors include Christopher Blascak-Box, of Howard University; Sarah E. Gergel, University of British Columbia; Caitlin Grady, George Washington University; and Klaus Keller, Dartmouth College.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Penn State Center for Climate Risk Management, the Penn State Huck Life Sciences Institutes, and the Penn State National Research Training Center.

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