Comparative Landscape Observatories approaches: insights from Portuguese experiences in progress

Authors and Affiliations: 

Maria da Graça Saraiva, UL, FA/CIAUD
Rosário Oliveira, UL, FA/CIAUD
Isabel Loupa-Ramos, UL, IST/CERIS
Veerle Van Eetvelde, Ghent University, Department of Geography

Corresponding author: 
Maria da Graça Saraiva

The concept of Landscape Observatory (LO), developed in several countries, helps to build the framework for democratic debates on participatory policies for landscape planning and management. LO’s, notably those focused on a specific landscape, provide the opportunity to exchange experiences on landscape, strengthen community links and gather visions of different groups of public, such as scientists, planners, artists, decision makers, interest groups and local communities. Several typologies of LO’s have been developed around Europe, and one of the main distinctions is based on their structure and arrangements. Top-down cases are usually led by national and regional institutions aiming to obtain knowledge and produce indicators supporting planning and decision making processes; bottom-up initiatives have a more local character, address a specific territory and emphasize public participation where local initiatives can be framed.
In Portugal, three LO’s have been taken its first steps. Despite they are focused in different landscapes concerning scales, approaches and initiatives, they have common aims and strategies, by enhancing landscape identity, by implementing transdisciplinary approaches and by giving insight to other similar initiatives either at national or international level.
This paper intends to present and discuss the content, complementarity and diversity of those three examples towards the implementation of the ELC: (i) the Tagus River LO as an example of the cultural landscape promotion of the biggest watershed in the Iberian Peninsula, (ii) the LO of the Local Protected Area of Serras do Socorro e Archeira where a method of landscape management assessment is being implemented, in Torres Vedras and (iii) the Local LO of Charneca, in the municipality of Chamusca, dedicated to a landscape dominated by cork oak (Quercus suber) woodlands, recognized as a natural/cultural landscape of intrinsic value, aiming the valorisation of its structure and identity. Figure 1 shows the location of these LO’s in mainland Portugal and Table 1 synthetizes a comparative analysis concerning some attributes according to the LOD (Landscape Observatories Documentation) Project framework.
These experiences require multiple dimensions and transdisciplinary approaches. Transdisciplinarity has been defined as a progressive stage of integration of knowledge, that moves out of the academic context, finding ways to tap into other knowledge bases, as those provided by the stakeholders or the general public. Capturing the complexity of landscapes depends on the ability to integrate all these types and to give them opportunities for engaging in a co-production of knowledge. By doing so, they bring their own set of perceptions and values, which provides new insights into the landscape. Therefore, the role of LO as hubs for collecting and sharing knowledge about landscapes should be further explored, inspiring the development of those case studies.


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