Design in science: extending the landscape ecology paradigm

J.I. Nassauer, P.F.M. Opdam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

260 Citations (Scopus)


Landscape ecological science has produced knowledge about the relationship between landscape pattern and landscape processes, but it has been less effective in transferring this knowledge to society. We argue that design is a common ground for scientists and practitioners to bring scientific knowledge into decision making about landscape change, and we therefore propose that the pattern¿process paradigm should be extended to include a third part: design. In this context, we define design as any intentional change of landscape pattern for the purpose of sustainably providing ecosystem services while recognizably meeting societal needs and respecting societal values. We see both the activity of design and the resulting design pattern as opportunities for science: as a research method and as topic of research. To place design within landscape ecology science, we develop an analytic framework based on the concept of knowledge innovation, and we apply the framework to two cases in which design has been used as part of science. In these cases, design elicited innovation in society and in science: the design concept was incorporated in societal action to improve landscape function, and it also initiated scientific questions about pattern¿process relations. We conclude that landscape design created collaboratively by scientists and practitioners in many disciplines improves the impact of landscape science in society and enhances the saliency and legitimacy of landscape ecological scientific knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-644
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • sustainability science
  • decision-making
  • systems
  • knowledge
  • networks
  • society

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