SLU news

An interdisciplinary approach to multifunctional landscapes

Published: 17 February 2024
A group of researchers discussing in a forest.

Our landscapes serve numerous vital purposes, including providing food and clean water, supporting biodiversity, producing timber, and offering spaces for recreation. As the demand for these ecosystem services continues to increase, it is more crucial than ever for scientists from various fields to collaborate.

A key challenge is that these issues are too broad for any single branch of research to tackle alone. An interdisciplinary approach is essential to address this challenge. A recent article in People and Nature, authored by a group of researchers who initiated their collaboration during the inaugural year of the Interdisciplinary Academy (IDA) at SLU, outlines an analysis support tool to facilitate this process.

The six SLU researchers—Hanna Fors, Anna Berlin, Uliana Gottlieb, Mari Kågström, James Weldon, and Jasmine Zhang—all originated from different institutions and research fields and had never collaborated before joining IDA in its first year (2022-2023). They formed a thematic group to explore the potential of interdisciplinarity in addressing multifunctional landscapes.

One of the initial challenges they faced was comprehensively explaining and understanding each other's perspectives and knowledge. During this process, they explored various tools for interdisciplinary work. They previously shared this process and their experiences in a discussion article in the newspaper Universitetsläraren, aiming to inspire others to venture into interdisciplinary working methods.

In their recently published article in People and Nature, the group describes an analysis support tool they developed to assist other researchers in navigating the complex field of multifunctionality. The tool is based on a set of key questions designed to foster thoughtful reflection and promote a sustainable approach.

Multifunctional landscapes have the potential to address many ecological and social problems we face, now and in the future, concludes the researchers. However, achieving this requires a focused aim, a clear process, and input from scientists with diverse expertise. By adopting a holistic approach and considering the needs of all those who use a landscape, we can maximise the potential of multifunctional landscapes. This can lead to more sustainable and resilient land-use practices that benefit both people and the environment.

Interdisciplinary insights into navigating the maze of landscape multifunctionality. People and Nature, februari 2024. Författare Hanna Fors, Anna Berlin, Uliana Gottlieb, Mari Kågström, James Weldon och Jasmine Zhang.

Plain Language Summary: Researchers from different areas of science must work together for sustainable landscapes that serve many purposes.


IDA - promoting Interdisciplinary across the university

The Interdisciplinary Academy (IDA) is a programme at SLU where the university's researchers are offered the opportunity to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries on complex issues in the broad field of green transformation. 

Interdisciplinary Academy has been initiated and is led by SLU Future Food, one of SLU's four future platforms, all of which are tasked with promoting interdisciplinarity at the university.