Ecological networks: a spatial concept for multi-actor planning of sustainable landscapes

P.F.M. Opdam, E.G. Steingröver, S.A.M. van Rooij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

343 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we propose the ecological network concept as a suitable basis for inserting biodiversity conservation into sustainable landscape development. For landscapes to be ecologically sustainable, the landscape structure should support those ecological processes required for the landscape to deliver biodiversity services for present and future generations. We first show that in multifunctional, human-dominated landscapes, biodiversity conservation needs a coherent large-scale spatial structure of ecosystems. Theory and empirical knowledge of ecological networks provides a framework for the design of such structures. Secondly, ecological networks can bridge the paradox between reserve conservation (fixing nature in space and time) and development, which implies change. This is because ecological networks can change structure without losing their conservation potential. Thirdly, ecological networks facilitate stakeholder decision-making on feasible biodiversity goals. They help to focus on an effective spatial scale. We conclude that extending the ecological network concept with multifunctional indicators is a promising step towards sustainable landscape development and stakeholder decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-332
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Issue number3/4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • land use
  • landscape
  • ecological network
  • biodiversity
  • ecosystem services
  • habitat fragmentation
  • climate-change
  • conservation
  • consequences
  • extinction
  • responses
  • services
  • impacts
  • future


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