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Robert Axelsson

Integrative Research and Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production: A Review of Barriers and Bridges

Contemporary policies about use of natural resources clearly pronounce sustainable development towards the goal sustainability as a focal objective. A key challenge for research is to support improvements and management by evaluation of sustainability policy implementation, i.e. outcomes on the ground and the social process in actual landscapes. However, while a landscape consists of integrated social and ecological subsystems and should thus be treated as a holistic unit or system, most research and postgraduate training is disciplinary. This means that very few researchers are equipped to solve problems or contribute to solutions in the non-academic world. There is thus a need for universities to learn integrative (interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary) research and knowledge production that meets complex challenges related to sustainable development and sustainability issues as for example management and governance of natural resources. In this paper I review the background, concepts and the barriers and bridges to integrative research and knowledge production. As a base for evaluation and development of integrative research projects I propose a normative model for integrative knowledge production processes. This was done through a literature review and a study of an integrative research project. I discuss how transdisciplinary research about landscapes and to solve complex sustainability issues can be designed, viz. (1) there is a need for a common understanding of different types of integrative research, (2) an outspoken aim to develop socially robust knowledge, (3) a model for transdisciplinary collaborative learning processes, and (4) a funding scheme that include academic and non-academic participants and matches the long process of partnership building during the full knowledge production process, from problem identification/definition to an improvement or a management solution.

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Robert Axelsson, Per Angelstam, Marine Elbakidze, Nataliya Stryamets and Karl-Erik Johansson

Sustainable Development and Sustainability: Landscape Approach as a Practical Interpretation of Principles and Implementation Concepts

The situation for governors and managers of natural resources has increased in complexity. Previously it was enough to sustain the yields of wood, food and energy. Today, maintenance of ecosystem services, conservation of biodiversity, rural development and human wellbeing are new additional objectives. At the same time there are new risks and uncertainties linked to climate change, economic globalisation, energy security and water supply. Consequently, adaptive and holistic research, governance and management are needed. Landscape is a concept and framework that can be used as an approach to enhance implementation of policies about sustainable development as a societal process and sustainability as outcomes on the ground. For our analysis to define the landscape approach we used a hierarchical framework consisting of principles, concepts and initiatives; and included three principles defining SD and sustainability and five international concepts to analyze its implementation for our analysis to define landscape approach. We propose a practical operationalization that consists of five core attributes, (1) a sufficiently large area that matches management requirements and challenges to deliver desired goods, services and values, (2) multi-level and multi-sector stakeholder collaboration that promotes sustainable development as a social process, (3) commitment to and understanding of sustainability as an aim among stakeholders, (4) integrative knowledge production, and (5) sharing of experience, results and information, to develop local or tacit to general or explicit knowledge. Finally, we discuss the need for integrative research to study landscape approach concepts and what local initiatives using different concepts deliver on the ground.