Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Perspective
  • Published:

Landscape products for sustainable agricultural landscapes


Landscape products link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and have multiple functions supporting human well-being and sustainability. Here we explore seven landscape products worldwide to identify these multiple functions in the context of food commodification and landscape sustainability. We show that a landscape products lens can improve food systems by fostering sustainability strategies and standards that are place-sensitive, and as such can mitigate conflicts related to food production, social justice and the environment. Co-management strategies and information policies, such as certification, labelling, product information and raising of awareness could accelerate, incentivize and catalyse actions to support landscape products in the context of sustainability strategies.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Elements of landscape products.
Fig. 2: Location and description of the seven case studies.
Fig. 3: Multiple functions of landscape products.
Fig. 4: Key needs and actions for policy and practice.

Similar content being viewed by others

Data availability

All data related to the seven cases used as empirical evidence in this Perspective can be found in the Supplementary Information.


  1. Fagerholm, N. et al. Perceived contributions of multifunctional landscapes to human well-being: evidence from 13 European sites. People Nat. 2, 217–234 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Riechers, M. et al. The erosion of relational values resulting from landscape simplification. Landsc. Ecol. 35, 2601–2612 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Guo, T., García-Martín, M. & Plieninger, T. Recognizing Indigenous farming practices for sustainability: a narrative analysis of key elements and drivers in a Chinese dryland terrace system. Ecosyst. People 17, 279–291 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Plieninger, T. et al. Dehesas as high nature value farming systems: a social-ecological synthesis of drivers, pressures, state, impacts, and responses. Ecol. Soc. 26, 23 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Polyxeni, N. S. et al. Chemical pesticides and human health: the urgent need for a new concept in agriculture. Front. Public Health 4, 148 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Flinzberger, L., Zinngrebe, Y. & Plieninger, T. Labelling in Mediterranean agroforestry landscapes: a Delphi study on relevant sustainability indicators. Sustain. Sci. 15, 1369–1382 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Salzman, J. et al. The global status and trends of Payments for Ecosystem Services. Nat. Sustain. 1, 136–144 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Strategy for Sustainable Food Systems, MeaDRI (MAFF, 2021);

  9. Thompson, C. J. & Coskuner-Balli, G. Enchanting ethical consumerism: the case of community supported agriculture. J. Consum. Cult. 7, 275–303 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Meemken, E.-M. et al. Sustainability standards in global agrifood supply chains. Nat. Food 2, 758–765 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Gardner, T. A. et al. Transparency and sustainability in global commodity supply chains. World Dev. 121, 163–177 (2019).

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. García-Martín, M. et al. Linking food systems and landscape sustainability in the Mediterranean region. Landsc. Ecol. 36, 2259–2275 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  13. A Sustainable Food System for the European Union (SAPEA, 2020);

  14. Hölting, L. et al. Measuring ecosystem multifunctionality across scales. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 124083 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Vivero-Pol, J. The idea of food as commons or commodity in academia. A systematic review of English scholarly texts. J. Rural Stud. 53, 182–201 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Al-Sayed, L. & Bieling, C. Food-related well-being in times of crisis: conceptual considerations and empirical findings for Syrian refugees in Germany. J. Migr. Health 12, 100005 (2020).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Block, L. G. et al. From nutrients to nurturance: a conceptual introduction to food well-being. J. Public Policy Mark. 30, 5–13 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Frei, B. et al. A brighter future: complementary goals of diversity and multifunctionality to build resilient agricultural landscapes. Glob. Food Secur. 26, 100407 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  19. Jackson, P. et al. Food as a commodity, human right or common good. Nat. Food 2, 132–134 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Wu, J. Landscape sustainability science (II): core questions and key approaches. Landsc. Ecol. 36, 2453–2485 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Belton, B., Reardon, T. & Zilberman, D. Sustainable commoditization of seafood. Nat. Sustain. 3, 677–684 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Sayer, J. et al. Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 8349–8356 (2013).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  23. Hedberg, R. C. & Zimmerer, K. S. What’s the market got to do with it? Social-ecological embeddedness and environmental practices in a local food system initiative. Geoforum 110, 35–45 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Maskell, L. C. et al. Exploring relationships between land use intensity, habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity to identify and monitor areas of High Nature Value farming. Biol. Conserv. 231, 30–38 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  25. le Polain de Waroux, Y. & Lambin, E. F. Niche commodities and rural poverty alleviation: contextualizing the contribution of argan oil to rural livelihoods in Morocco. Ann. Assoc. Am. Geogr. 103, 589–607 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  26. Ibarrola-Rivas, M.-J. et al. Telecoupling through tomato trade: what consumers do not know about the tomato on their plate. Glob. Sustain. 3, E7 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  27. Zhang, W. et al. Ecosystem services and dis-services to agriculture. Ecol. Econ. 64, 253–260 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  28. Díaz, S. et al. Assessing nature’s contributions to people. Science 359, 270–272 (2018).

    ADS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Ghazoul, J., Garcia, C. & Kushalappa, C. G. Landscape labelling: a concept for next-generation payment for ecosystem service schemes. For. Ecol. Manag. 258, 1889–1895 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  30. Fish, R., Church, A. & Winter, M. Conceptualising cultural ecosystem services: a novel framework for research and critical engagement. Ecosyst. Serv. 21, 208–217 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  31. Rundgren, G. Food: from commodity to commons. J. Agric. Environ. Ethics 29, 103–121 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  32. Petrini, C. Slow Food: The Case for Taste (Columbia Univ. Press, 2003).

  33. Ives, C. D. et al. Reconnecting with nature for sustainability. Sustain. Sci. 13, 1389–1397 (2018).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  34. Abson, D. J. et al. Leverage points for sustainability transformation. Ambio 46, 30–39 (2017).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Soga, M. & Gaston, K. J. Extinction of experience: the loss of human–nature interactions. Front. Ecol. Environ. 14, 94–101 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Saito, O. (ed.) Sharing Ecosystem Services: Building More Sustainable and Resilient Society (Science for Sustainable Societies, Springer, 2020).

  37. Rogers, D. S. et al. A vision for human well-being: transition to social sustainability. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sustain. 4, 61–73 (2012).

    Google Scholar 

  38. Boogaard, B. K., Oosting, S. J. & Bock, B. B. Defining sustainability as a socio-cultural concept: citizen panels visiting dairy farms in the Netherlands. Livest. Sci. 117, 24–33 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  39. Chen, X. et al. Linking social norms to efficient conservation investment in payments for ecosystem services. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 11812–11817 (2009).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  40. Pretty, J. Social capital and the collective management of resources. Science 302, 1912–1914 (2003).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Kim, J. Social dimension of sustainability: from community to social capital. J. Glob. Schol. Mark. Sci. 28, 175–181 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  42. Hickey, G. et al. Quantifying the economic contribution of wild food harvests to rural livelihoods: a global-comparative analysis. Food Policy 62, 122–132 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  43. Bowen, S. & De Master, K. New rural livelihoods or museums of production? Quality food initiatives in practice. J. Rural Stud. 27, 73–82 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  44. Daviron, B. & Vagneron, I. From commoditisation to de-commoditisation…and back again: discussing the role of sustainability standards for agricultural products. Dev. Policy Rev. 29, 91–113 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  45. Debonne, N. et al. Agency shifts in agricultural land governance and their implications for land degradation neutrality. Glob. Environ. Change 66, 102221 (2021).

    Google Scholar 

  46. Zimmerer, K. S., Lambin, E. F. & Vanek, S. J. Smallholder telecoupling and potential sustainability. Ecol. Soc. 23, 30 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  47. Farm to Fork Strategy: For a Fair, Healthy and Environmentally-Friendly Food System (European Commission, 2020);

  48. “Génération Green 2020-2030”: Une Stratégie Consacrant la Vision Royale d’un Secteur Agricole Résilient et Durable (MAP, 2021);

  49. Flinzberger, L. et al. EU-wide mapping of ‘Protected Designations of Origin’ food products (PDOs) reveals correlations with social-ecological landscape values. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 42, 43 (2022).

    Google Scholar 

  50. Plieninger, T. et al. Fostering biocultural diversity in landscapes through place-based food networks: a ‘solution scan’ of European and Japanese models. Sustain. Sci. 13, 219–233 (2018).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


The research here presented is part of the LANDSCAPE CHAINS project funded by the German Research Foundation, DFG, through grant number 426675955. We acknowledge the important contribution to this research of the local communities, authorities and partners from the seven case studies. We thank M. Reinhard-Kolempas for her contribution to the case study descriptions included in the Supplementary Information. All figures have been designed by J. Traudes, The following co-authors acknowledge individual support of their research: T.P.: German Research Foundation (DFG) through the Sustainable Food Systems Research Training Group (RTG 2654). J.M.-R.: FCT—Foundation for Science and Technology (Portugal) under the project UIDB/05183/2020. U.D.: MAVA Foundation (grant number 20009). O.S.: Japan Science and Technology Agency, e-Asia JRP, ‘Integration of traditional and modern bioproduction systems for a sustainable and resilient future under climate and ecosystem changes (ITMoB)’. J.L.: US National Science Foundation (grant number 1924111) and Michigan AgBioResearch. T.K., T.D.: MAVA Foundation through the Terra Lemnia project, M6 OAP 2017-2022 on Cultural Landscapes. C.Q.-S.: European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) grant agreement number 101031168.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



All authors have contributed to this Perspective through an iterative process of several online workshops and meetings from September 2020 to July 2021, where the idea of the paper was defined, discussed and revised. T.P. provided the original idea and M.G.-M. has coordinated the process. J.M.-R., K.S.Z., M.J.I.-R., M.E.F.G., O.S., T.K., T.D. and U.D. have each contributed a case study.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to María García-Martín or Tobias Plieninger.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Food thanks Lisanne Hölting, Joachim Maes and Albert Norström for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Boxes 1–7 and Supplementary Cases 1–7.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

García-Martín, M., Huntsinger, L., Ibarrola-Rivas, M.J. et al. Landscape products for sustainable agricultural landscapes. Nat Food 3, 814–821 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing