An exploration of the European landscape convention as a guiding framework for multi-scalar landscape governance in the territories of Catalonia (Spain) and the Republic of Ireland
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The spatial dimensions of many social, economic and environmental challenges facing 21st century societies can be addressed through the idea of landscape. Scholars working in the area of environmental and landscape change research have increasingly advocated the need to enhance integrative approaches between the natural, human and applied sciences. At a statutory level, this paradigm shift has been formalised through the publication in 2000 of the European Landscape Convention - ELC (Council of Europe, 2000a). The aim of this research is to explore the contribution of the ELC to the advancement of knowledge that serves to promote the landscape resource as integral to the pursuit of sustainable territorial development across the European model of society. Anchored within the context of the implementation of the ELC as symbolic policy, this exploratory research links conceptual insights on ‘landscape’, ‘scale’ and ‘governance’, with empirical insights into the value of these concepts. A comparative study was undertaken between two European territories presently in the process of implementing the ELC: the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, Spain; and the Republic of Ireland. This research posed a central question: what is the ‘added-value’ of the ELC as a framework to guide processes of multi-scalar landscape governance? Ultimately, the guiding framework of the ELC has contributed to the re-positioning of landscape as the primary context for our universal search for more sustainable ways of living within the contemporary European project. The governance of the landscape resource has correspondingly emerged as a prime consideration for spatial planning systems across Europe. In this regard, the research findings show that public authorities tasked with landscape governance must engage in the local realities of particular places, as both socially constructed spaces and natural-spatial entities. This necessitates intensive interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary co-operation (i.e. the incorporation of local knowledge), in order to progress common understandings of a) the idea of landscape and b) the complex relationship between the spatial scales, political levels and natural scales of the landscape governance process. In this regard, the ELC offers a guiding framework for handling complex locally-anchored challenges of multi-scalar landscape governance.