February 27, 2013

Opening a Dialogue in 2013

Dialogue, discussion, partnership, coordination, collaboration. Regardless of how it is framed, this notion of crossing sectors, disciplines, and interest groups has been a recurring theme in the spheres of sustainable land management, environmental conservation, food security, and rural development these first two months of 2013. Perhaps this elevated level of discussion stems from an understanding that landscapes must serve multiple functions in an increasingly resource-scarce world.

While there are many players within a landscape, the forestry and agriculture communities have not always seen eye-to-eye in development patterns and management practices. At the Yale chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters annual conference, some of the historical barriers were breached, and bridging the forest and agriculture divide was a topic of great interest. Such a shift in mentality is particularly clear within the discourse of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) community. Developed as a mechanism to maintain or restore forest as a means of storing carbon to mitigate climate change, REDD began with a strong sectoral focus. However, a growing recognition that “people don’t live under a tree, they live in an integrated landscape” is leading to more open discussion about other land uses in the REDD project grab bag. 

It is not an idealistic and unattainable notion, either, that multiple sectors and stakeholder groups can work together. In fact, it makes sense from an efficiency standpoint. For example, researchers noted the benefits of partnerships and engaging a suite of actors for payment for ecosystem services projects in a post on landscape-level lessons. Such cross-pollination can help determine areas of overlap and mutual benefit. Along the same vein, in the United States, a quadrennial national climate assessment released at the start of the year calls for communication and collaboration across interest groups, with an integrated research agenda as a means to address complex questions and also use scarce financial resources most efficiently. In January, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) convened its first meeting, representing an effort to bring together the science and policy communities. Even within this already multi-stakeholder platform, there is great potential to include additional representation from the suite of groups influencing biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Opening up the conversation and collaboration is very much at the core of integrated landscape management. Cross-sectoral dialogue runs across research, policy decisions, and work on the ground, in the landscape. If the start of this year is any indication, it seems to be catching on.

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