This Special Issue of the journal Land  probes the ability of transdisciplinary research in land systems science to achieve equitable problem solving in complex multi-stakeholder, multi- and cross-scale, as well as tele-coupled contexts.

Deadline for manuscript submission is 1 September 2021.

Land is a critical nexus for advancing the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, as its management is affecting the delivery of most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is because land lies at the intersection of diverse and potentially conflicting claims concerning societies’ sustainable development needs (Ehrensperger et al., 2019). These claims might be bound to a specific context, but in today’s interconnected world, they are increasingly linked to complex multi-scale, cross-scale, and tele-coupled processes that exacerbate the risk of inequality and marginalisation (Pricope et al., 2020).

Owing to this complexity, navigating competing claims on land in an equitable way necessitates approaches that help address multi-faceted real-world problems. Transdisciplinary (TD) approaches go beyond interdisciplinarity by transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries and co-producing knowledge with multiple stakeholders. They have been proposed as a mechanism to understand sustainability challenges, to define common sustainable development targets, and to identify the most promising pathways towards these targets (Paul and Hirsch Hadorn, 2007; Schneider et al., 2019).

Land system science (LSS) has a rich tradition of knowledge co-production between scientists and land managers (de Bremond et al., 2019) and has been put forth as normative science through its systemic focus on synergies and tradeoffs (Nielsen et al., 2019). Thus far, the literature on the strengths and limitations of these approaches has grown exponentially (Zschleischler et al., 2018; Zaehringer et al., 2019; Schneider et al., 2020), but a comprehensive reflection is lacking on their ability to tackle multiple claims on land by multiple stakeholders in a multi-scale, cross-scale, or tele-coupled context.


Against this backdrop, this Special Issue probes the ability of TD research in LSS to achieve equitable problem solving in complex multi-stakeholder, multi- and cross-scale, as well as tele-coupled contexts. It focuses on the potentials and limitations of innovative TD concepts and methods to negotiate trade-offs and to foster synergies between multiple sustainability claims on land by (a) availing useful knowledge on sustainability challenges, (b) enabling consensus building on common development targets, and (c) identifying promising transformation pathways.


We welcome practice-based or case study papers, as well as conceptual or review articles that contribute directly to the above-stated objectives. Within this scope, we will give priority to submissions that explicitly relate the competing claims and co-benefits under consideration of interactions between land-relevant SDGs and their targets.

Specifically, central to the objectives of this Special Issue are questions such as:

  • What is the role of co-production in land-relevant SDG research in LSS and how do we anticipate the landscape of TD approaches to change as we develop better approaches, tools, and methods of linking stakeholders, scales, and contexts?
  • What actors and stakeholders should co-produce and what groups and entities would be better served not engaging in TD and co-produced research? What may be the criteria to decide?
  • What are the critical competing claims on land that you have encountered and how did TD approaches help in identifying them and in supporting negotiation and decision-support processes to address them?
  • How can TD approaches help foster synergies among various development priorities targeting the same region or landscape?
  • When should TD give way to non-participatory, top-down approaches towards pacifying conflicting claims on land?
  • What can make TD processes backfire and how can this be avoided?

Finally, we welcome contributions that highlight how the coronavirus pandemic and the decarbonisation of research activities has affected and may continue to affect our knowledge co-production practices.

Special Note: The members of Global Land Programme (GLP) receive 10% discount on the article processing charge.

Guest Editors 

Dr. Narcisa Pricope
Dr. Isabelle Providoli
Dr. Albrecht Ehrensperger
Dr. Jean-Christophe Castella
Dr. Flurina Schneider

More information.

Cover image by Pixabay user Free-Photos.

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